How to Talk to Children about Death

For the past weeks, our family has mourned the lost our dear grandmother. She was the first Christian in my husband’s family, whose spiritual legacy has resulted to two churches planted, one of which is our own fledgling church community. Our Little Miss also mourned her passing. She did not take it well when I finally told her that her great grandmother went home to be with God in heaven. There were several nights when we was utterly distraught at the thought of not seeing her great grandmother again. The only way she was able to finally sleep at night was to take comfort in God’s promises. I taught her a song based on 1 Peter 5:7 that I also learned when I was a little girl.

I cast all my cares upon You

I lay all of my burdens down at Your feet

And any time I don’t know what to do

I will cast all my cares upon You

One of our biggest parental roles is to impart God’s Word to our children. Even though it can be a tough topic, we should not shy away in talking about death because Scripture clearly addresses it. Opportunities to talk about death would open up when a pet dies or when a family member needs to attend a funeral.

What does the Bible say about Death?

Death Happens

Death makes us upset. Sometimes it makes us sad because we might not see the person we love. Sometimes it makes us angry because we don’t understand why they had to leave. But the Bible tells us that death is real, and it happens to everyone. One day, we will also die.

Hebrews 9:27; 2 Corinthians 5:10

Death is NOT NORMAL

But death is not normal. God meant for us to live forever. But sin spoiled everything. Death is a result of sin. Because of sin, we will all die.

1 Corinthians 15:56-58

JESUS DESTROYED DEATH

But God sent His Son Jesus to destroy death. He died on the cross, was buried, and on third day, he rose again. Jesus defeated death, and death will die one day. When we trust that Jesus lived, died and became alive again so that our sins can be forgiven, God promises a life in heaven with him forever.

1 Corinthians 15:26; John 3:16; John 11:23-26

DEATH IS TO BE WITH GOD FOREVER

We will still die. And dying could mean that we may no longer be with our earthly families. But if we believe in Jesus, dying means we will be with God forever. We will be happy with God always. We will praise and worship God always. Most of all, we will spend forever with God, and enjoy Him forever.

John 14:1-4; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18; Philippians 3:20-21

Prepare Them Beforehand

A good time to talk about death would be before death ever happens. It is usually more manageable when the child is not upset or distressed. In a way, we prepare them before a distressing event like death occurs. Catechism is a great tool that could do just that. Here are the last 10 questions and answers of the Children’s Catechism that can help address some concerns relating to death. It also provides some simple answers regarding those who do not believe in Jesus.

  1. Did Christ remain in the grave after his crucifixion?
    No. He rose bodily from the grave on the third day after his death.
  2. Where is Christ now?
    In heaven, ruling his kingdom and interceding for us.
  3. Will the Lord Jesus come again?
    Yes! He will return to judge the world on the last day.
  4. What happens to believers when they die?
    Our bodies will return to the dust and our souls will go to be with the Lord forever.
  5. What happens to unbelievers when they die?
    Their bodies will return to dust also, but their souls will go to hell.
  6. What is hell?
    Hell is an awful place, where unbelievers are separated from God to suffer for their sins.
  7. Will the bodies of all the dead be raised again?
    Yes. At the last day some will be raised to everlasting life and others to everlasting death.
  8. What will God do to unbelievers at the last day?
    He will judge them, and condemn them to everlasting punishment in the lake of fire with Satan and his angels.
  9. What will God do for believers at the last day?
    He will give them a home with him in the new heaven and the new earth.
  10. What will the new heaven and the new earth be like?
    A glorious and happy place, where the saved will be with Jesus forever.

Not knowing what is going to happen after death is certainly upsetting for anyone, let alone a child. Try not to downplay their emotions when this happens. Instead, recognize that have worries, fear or dread of death, and point them to our everlasting hope in Jesus. But most of all, pray for them and with them. That God would supply His grace upon their hearts, and give them understanding. After all, “Prayer is praising God, giving thanks for all his blessings, and asking him for the things he has promised in the Bible.” (Children’s Catechism A109)

 

Children’s Catechism Lesson 4: Loving and Doing

Lesson Plan

  • Topic: Loving and Doing
  • Bible Passage: Matthew 5:14-16
  • Big Idea: We glorify God by loving him and doing what he commands.
  • Objectives: Children will understand what glorifying God means. Children will know that we show God that we love Him when we do what he wants us to do. Children will also realize why they should glorify God.
  • Materials Used: Candle, Flashlight, Paper, Scissors, Glue

HOOK

Ask your child to name someone they love. Younger children would usually answer Mom or Dad. 

When we love someone, we would like to do things to make them happy. There are many ways to say “I love you” to someone. Can you name a few things that would make the person you love happy? (obeying parents, listening to teacher’s instructions, giving gifts to friends, etc.)

When you obey your parents, you show them that you love them. When we obey God, we show God that we love Him. Question 4 of the catechism says that we glorify God by loving him and doing what he commands. While Question 5 teaches us to glorify God because he made us and takes care of us.

Q4: How can you glorify God?
A: By loving him and doing what he commands.

 

Q5: Why are you to glorify God?
A: Because he made me and takes care of me.

In the previous lesson, we learned that God made us for his own glory. For this lesson, we are going to learn how and why we are to glorify God.

BOOK

Light a candle or open a flashlight in a dark room. Try to snuff out the candle or cover the flashlight, and observe the reaction. Do it all over again. 

The Bible tells us that God’s children are like light. Listen to what Matthew 5:14-16 says:

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (ESV)

God made us the light of the world, and whenever we show love to God by following what He wants us to do, we glorify Him. But sometimes we don’t love and obey God. We do things that God doesn’t want us to do. We would say mean things to our siblings, open up the candy bar even though Mom and Dad told us not to, and even grab a toy from a friend without asking for permission. When we disobey God, this is what the Bible calls sin. Sin is not following God’s commands. Sin is disobeying God.

Sin keeps us from loving and obeying God. But God found a way to solve the sin problem. He sent His Son Jesus to come into the world to become like us. Jesus was hungry, and thirsty. He cried when a dear friend died. He also got tired. He was like us in every way, but He did not sin. Not only that, Jesus obeyed all of God’s commandments. So when we love and trust in Jesus, God will forgive us all our sins and teach us how to love and obey Him. The Holy Spirit helps us do that by changing our hearts so that instead of loving sin, we will love God. And when other people see that we love and obey God, they may want to know God too. After all, glorifying God is showing others how great and good He is. That’s how we should glorify God.

Our lesson also teaches us that we should glorify God because he made us and takes care of us. We know these things because the Bible shows how God is kind to us.

Carine Mackenzie in her small book called God is Kind lists down several ways God shows us how he takes care of us:

  • He gives us food every day. (Luke 11:3)
  • He give us water to drink. (Isaiah 44:3)
  • He give us sunny days to enjoy. (Jeremiah 31:35)
  • He gives us our family. (Psalm 68:6)
  • He has given us the Bible to help us. (Psalm 68:11)
  • He gives a beautiful life in heaven to those who love him. (Romans 6:23)

LOOK

  • How can you glorify God? By loving him and doing what he commands.
  • Why are you to glorify God? Because he loves me and takes care of me.
  • What does it mean to glorify God?
  • What does it meant to be the light of the world?
  • What are some more ways we can obey God?
  • What are some more ways that God takes care of us?

TOOK

You could choose to sing a song, share a story, or create a craft.

The song called “The Light of the World” sung by Steve Green is based on the Matthew passage.

You are the light of the world, you are the light of the world. Let your light shine before men, you are the light of the world.

Let your light so shine that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven.
Let your light shine before men, you are the light of the world

Another great song to teach is The Ten Commandments Song by Judy Roger:

Thou shalt have no other gods but Me;
Before no idol bow thy knee.
Take not the Name of God in vain;
Nor dare the Sabbath Day profane.
Give both thy parents honor due;
Take heed that thou no murder do.
Abstain from words and deeds unclean;
Nor steal, though thou art poor and lean.
And do not lie, but always say what is true,
And covet not the things that don’t belong to you!

You could also close with a story written by R.C. Sproul called The Lightlings in keeping with the light theme.

R.C. Sproul weaves an allegorical tale that captures the essence of the biblical story of redemption in a manner that will fascinate and delight children. A race of tiny beings known as lightlings are a picture of humanity as they pass through all the stages of the biblical drama – creation, fall, and redemption. In the end, children will understand why some people fear light more than darkness, but why they need never fear darkness again.

You can hear the whole story as read by R.C. Sproul himself over at Renewing Your Mind. You can also purchase the book over at the Westminster Bookstore. It is also available locally through the Katecheo webstore.

If your child is into crafts, you could also create a lantern using basic supplies you may already have at home. Please see full instructions over here.

Related Resources

Children’s Catechism Lesson 3: For His Glory

Lesson Plan

  • Topic: For His Glory
  • Bible Passage: 1 Corinthians 10:31; Psalm 19:1
  • Big Idea: God made the world and us for his own glory.
  • Objectives: Children shall recognize that God created all things for his glory. Children will know that talking about God’s glory means talking about how great and good God is. Children will understand that glorifying God is like reflecting, pointing to, or shining for Him.
  • Materials Used: Mirror, Binoculars, Night Light or Flashlight, Pictures of Nature/Sceneries

HOOK

Lay down all the materials on a table or place them inside a basket. Ask the child to name each item as you show them one by one. You may ask an older child what each item can do or what each item is for.

A mirror can show us what we look like. A pair of binoculars can give us a better view of someone at a distance. A night light or flashlight can light up a dark room.

Our third catechism lesson teaches us the reason why God made the us and all the world around us. Laying on the foundational truths about their existence as created beings is extremely important to children during their tender years. The catechism asks and answers:

Q3: Why did God make you and all things?

A: For his own glory.

Introduce the third catechism, and excitedly inform the child you’ll find out what these three things have to do with the lesson.

BOOK

The Bible teaches us that God created the world and us for his own glory. When we talk about God’s glory, we are talking about how great and good God is.

Show a picture of a beautiful nature scene, like a forest or mountain. God made the whole world—the blue sky, the bright sun, the raging rivers, and the little birds that sing. Listen to what Psalm 19:1 says:

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

The sky and the mountains glorify God. They show people how great and good God is. They remind us that God created all things. Not only that, God made us for his own glory, too.

We are to be like mirrors that reflect how good and great God is. We are to be like a pair of binoculars that gives a clearer view of what God is like. We are also like flashlights that shines the light of Jesus in this dark and sinful world. We are made to glorify God. The Bible teaches us in 1 Corinthians 10:31:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

In everything we do, we are to show others how great and good God is. This is why God made us.

LOOK

  • Why did God make you and all things? For his own glory.
  • What does it mean to glorify God? To show others how great and good God is.

Sometimes, we are not very good reflections, pointers, and sources of light. We have sinful hearts, and they keep us from glorifying God. But God solved the problem of sinful hearts by sending His Son Jesus to come to earth, and live like us. Jesus became a man, and always glorified God. Jesus lived a perfect life and died on the cross to take the punishment that we deserve for our sins. If we follow and trust in him, God will forgive us our sins and teach us how to glorify Him. In fact, Jesus Himself said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12, ESV)

TOOK

Create a pair of binoculars using tissue paper rolls to bring home the lesson about glorifying God.

Tape together two toilet paper rolls side by side. Cut a strip of paper approximately 3×11 inches wide. Let your child decorate the paper as desired with tape, markers and the like. Wrap the decorated paper around the pair of toilet paper rolls and secure on the underside with more tape. Hole punch the outside of both rolls and add a strap using cording, rope or string

TP craft photo and instructions is taken from Raising Arizona Kids.

Another thing you could do is to share about the life and ministry of Augustine, the church father. As a young boy, he was full of mischief—he stole pears from his neighbor just because he enjoyed doing wrong. But his mother prayed for him regularly until one day, God saved him and he became a bishop.

Augustine wrote books that God used to help many people understand the Bible. In one of those books, he wrote: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.” That means, the purpose why God made each of us is to glorify Him. If we’re not doing showing others how great and good God is through our words, thoughts and actions, we are not doing what we were originally created to do.

Related Resources

Children’s Catechism Lesson 2: God Made All Things

Lesson 2

Lesson Plan

  • Topic: God Made All Things
  • Bible Passage: Genesis 1
  • Big Idea: God created everything.
  • Objectives: Children shall recognize that God created all things. Children shall realize that no one but God could create the world. Children shall acknowledge that God is powerful and wise for He created all the things we see around us.
  • Materials Used: Clay, Animal Figures/Toys

HOOK

When you’re teaching a toddler, open up the lesson by asking what sound each animal makes. You can say, “What does the cow say?” (Moo) “What does the sheep say?” (Baa)

Preschool children who already have phonological awareness or can recognize their letters can be asked to name different animals based on each letter. You can ask, “Can you name an animal that begins with the letter A?” (Alligator) “How about an animal that begins with the letter B?” (Bear)

You may transition to the next part by asking, “Did you know that God created all these animals? Not just that, God is all powerful because created everything that we see all around us!”

BOOK

The Bible tells us that God created us. This lesson talks about how God made our beautiful world, and everything in it. He created the stars in the night sky, the trees in the field, and all the animals, too. You may reinforce the first catechism lesson of how God created the world ex nihilo.

Read through Genesis 1 or the story of creation using an age-appropriate story Bible. My particular favorite for toddlers, Baby’s Hug-A-Bible, is written by Sally Lloyd-Jones. It’s written as a lullaby for babies and small children, and it goes something like,

Little one, who made the seas?
Who made the birds? Who made the bees?
Who made the sun, all big and bright?
And twinkly stars to shine at night?

 

God made them all. Oh yes, it’s true.
Yes, little one, and God made you.

What’s great with this story Bible is that Rain for Roots wrote a song using those very same words. Actually, a whole album was recorded to complement the story Bible. I’ve included the YouTube video below:

God is powerful for He created all these wonderful things. God is also wise because he created different environments where humans and animals can survive and thrive. He created time, weather, and food. He made the birds in the air, the fishes in the sea, the creatures who could crawl and walk in the land.

I used a small book called God Has Power by Carine MacKenzie to teach the theological lesson. We got this from Westminster Bookstore many years ago.

A post shared by Keren (@kerendotph) on

Some would people like to refer to the world as “Mother Nature.” This idea stems from Greek Mythology, and should be avoided as it is contrary to what the Bible teaches. There is no Mother Nature. There is only God who created all things. No one but God could create the world.

One familiar tune that you could also use to explain the lesson is the Sunday School classic, My God is So Big:

My God is so big,
So strong, and so mighty—
There’s nothing my God cannot do.

The mountains are His;
The valleys are His;
The stars are His handiwork, too.

My God is so big,
So strong, and so mighty—
There’s nothing my God cannot do.

LOOK

Repeat the catechism question and answer:

  • What else did God make? God made all things.
  • Can anyone else create the world? No one but God alone.
  • What did God use to create the world? The word of His power. He spoke, and all things came to be.

Smaller toddlers who cannot yet speak in sentences can simply answer “things” or “all things” when prompted with the catechism question. I do the same with my two year old who struggles to string words together.

TOOK

I decided to let the Little Man play with clay and animal figures in order teach him about the sky, sea and land. I had to rethink the activity because it was not age-appropriate for him.

One thing you could try to do at home is to bake cookies together using your favorite recipe. Younger children need a lot of assistance, but it is a worthwhile activity that most kids enjoy. Explain that we all need ingredients to make something. In order to make cookies, you need flour, salt, sugar, butter, chocolate chips, etc. But God did not use anything to create the world, He only spoke and all things came to be. God is powerful for he made all things out of nothing.

You could do a variety of activities/crafts depending on the age of your child. Here are some ideas that you could try:

  • Sequence the seven days of creation.
  • Create paper flowers.
  • Make homemade clay.
  • Paint a picture of God’s world.
  • Name animals, plants or food after each letter of the alphabet.
  • Mold animals or sceneries using clay.
  • Match animals according to their biomes.

More ideas can be found at Danielle’s Place over here.

Related Resources

How to Teach Kids the Events of the Passion Week

The Passion Week is usually referred to the events leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus. There is nothing special or holy about these dates at all. We should celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus every day of the week!

The reason for this post is to help parents teach their children these events on any day of the year. You can use six items that you may already have at home: a sprig of herb or leaf, a piece of bread, a string or thread, a nail or three, a piece of white cloth, and a rock.

Leaf/Herb

I used a sprig of rosemary herb to signify the branches that people used when Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem while riding a donkey. nA alternative is to use a toy donkey, if you have one at home. Read the passage from Matthew 21:1-11. Jesus was riding into the city as the king of Israel had always done when they came to the throne.

Bread

The bread represents the Last Supper as recorded in Matthew 26:17-29. The Passover meal with the disciples points back to the night in Egypt, and points to the time when God would send His own Son to die in the place of sinners like us. This meal shows us that Jesus was the Lamb, who came into the world to be slain for the sins of His people.

String/Thread

This piece of jute string represents the whip used by the Roman soliders to mock Jesus, as well as how Jesus endured the betrayal of his friends, particularly Judas. These events were written down in John 18:1-19:27. It was you and I who deserved to be beaten, ridiculed, and rejected because of our many sins. But Jesus took our place, and bore all this suffering for us.

Nails

I realized that using nails can be a bit dangerous for younger kids, so using screws without pointy ends would be better in this case. Making a small wooden cross out of two toothpicks put together would be another alternative. The three nails or the wooden cross signify how Jesus was nailed on the cross. You may retell the passage found in Matthew 27:32-56. Jesus gave His very life to pay for our sins. Jesus lived the life that we should have lived, and died the death that we should have died. And this same Jesus calls us to follow Him, trust Him, and love Him. Shall we not serve Him who finished the work of salvation for us on the cross?

White Cloth

Matthew 27:57-60 shows us the story of Jesus’ burial, and this piece of white cloth represents the clean linen shroud that was used to wrap the body of Jesus.

Stone

You could use a stone to represent the earlier point about Jesus’ burial or you could use it to illustrate this next story found in John 20. When Mary Magdalene and other women came to garden to visit Jesus, they found that the stone was already rolled away. And the angel told them not to be afraid for He is no longer there. He is risen! He is risen indeed! The disciples didn’t believe the story of the women. Their hearts were so sad with grief that they hardly realized what Mary was saying. They had not understood that Jesus is stronger than death itself. By rising from the dead Jesus brought eternal life to all who love and trust in Him.

A post shared by Keren (@kerendotph) on

how to TEACH THE STORY

Some people like to use these items and place them inside plastic eggs. The seventh egg would be left empty to signify that Jesus is no longer in the tomb for He is risen. I love the idea of a surprise but since eggs do not have anything to do with the story of the resurrection, I would like to avoid it as much as possible. There are also pagan overtones represented in those eggs.

So an alternative would be a sensory activity (as pictured above) using a salt box or kinetic sand box.

  • Put all the items in a box with iodized salt or kinetic sand.
  • Ask the child to find all the items.
  • Retell the story by arranging the items according to their proper order.
  • For an additional activity or memory work, scramble the items and ask the child to rearrange them according to their proper order.

A post shared by Keren (@kerendotph) on

You may also use the book The Donkey Who Carried a King by Dr. RC Sproul to share the story of the Passion week. An audio recording of the story book read by Dr. Sproul himself is also available for streaming at Renewing Your Mind.

A post shared by Keren (@kerendotph) on

A post shared by Keren (@kerendotph) on

Another additional activity is to sing the hymn of the month suggested by Happy Hymnody, that is Man of Sorrows aka Hallelujah, What A Savior by Philip B. Bliss.

“Man of Sorrows,” what a name
For the Son of God who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim!
Hallelujah! what a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood;
Hallelujah! what a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless, we,
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
Full redemption—can it be?
Hallelujah! what a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die,
“It is finished!” was His cry;
Now in heaven exalted high;
Hallelujah! what a Savior!

When He comes, our glorious King,
To His kingdom us to bring,
Then anew this song we’ll sing
Hallelujah! what a Savior!

I truly pray that you would find this resource useful and Jesus beautiful as you teach and train children about our wonderful Savior!

Please feel free to share how you will use these items to retell the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.