The April that my son was eight years old we were preparing for Passover. My husband and kids had searched the house for chametz (the crumbs of leavening). Tradition says that you burn the chametz. So my husband put a strip of aluminum foil over the gas stove’s burner and turned on the flame. The crumbs began to smoke and then suddenly POP! They burst into flame! My son jumped back and with wide eyes asked, “Was that God?”
Was that God?
Is that natural phenomenon of heating starches to the point of fire, God? Well, yes, in a way. If you believe that all of nature is a part of God — sunsets, lightening, waterfalls, polar bears, etc.
Was that a bearded man in the sky zapping the chametz? No, that would be magic.
How do we talk to our children about God? What is it we want them to believe? What are they physiologically able to grasp at their particular age? If you believe in a Creator-force, that’s pretty vague. If you believe in Jesus, a man who was God also, that’s pretty complex. If you don’t believe in any “greater being” but do believe in Jewish peoplehood, how do you sync that with a child in Hebrew school learning God stories?
Let’s talk about it. The tricky and wonderful thing about God is that there are no right answers. No two of us believes in exactly the same way. Yet we are responsible for giving something to our children. Whether that something is faith, uncertainty or scientific explanation, we need to do it in age appropriate ways that support the unique child to whom we are speaking. Worried that your child will be ‘brainwashed’ if you tell them what to think? Sorry, it ain’t that easy. Your child needs and wants your guidance. Little children want to be on the same page with you. The world is all new to them and they need the security of a shared concept. Will they ever think for themselves? Oh, yes, and when they do you’ll wish they were more readily influenced by you. They will go their own way spiritually as well as all the other ways in which children differentiate from their parents.
Now you may be thinking, that’s all fine and good, but I don’t even know what I THINK about God. Excellent point. You’ll need to work out some message, even if that message is an honest, “Honey, I am still trying to figure this out because I don’t know. What do you think?”
Maybe you’d like an opportunity to discuss our kids and God concepts with other folks. Feel free to call me. Additionally, let me know if you’d like to see a program in your city. Two from past years are —
God Talk for Adults
Talking to Children About God