Sunday, March 4, 2012

Talking to Your Kids About God (Preschool Edition)


“But I want to SEE Jesus!" he insisted. "Where is he? Can he come play at my house?”

“Well, you can’t see him right now.” 

“Why? Is he hiding?” My preschooler craned his neck to peer into the bathroom closet. 

“No, you just can’t see him right now,” I explained. “He’s here; but we can’t see him. He’s invisible!”

Most of us want to talk to our kids about God, our faith, and what’s important to us. Many parents wonder where to start, though, and what to say. Other parents have expressed fear of not knowing how to answer the theological questions that may arise. 

While I certainly don’t have all the answers, several ways have worked for our family as we raise our sixteen-, thirteen- and almost four-year old. Our seventeen years of church and family ministry have been helpful as well. 

Talking to Your Preschooler about God
  1. As You Go. As you walk, talk, eat, drive, breathe, play, and prepare to sleep, share joyfully and naturally about Jesus. Walks in the woods can explore God’s creation, and marvel at his artistry. “Look at these cool raccoon tracks! Did you know…?” My kids and I have made up worship songs as we walked in the woods and across prairie grasslands. “Thank you for the trees, thank you for the birds…” There is nothing sweeter than hearing a lilting preschooler lisp songs to God.    
  2. Practice and Encourage Natural Prayers. While liturgical prayers can be meaningful and helpful, don’t underestimate the power of encouraging children to speak their heart as well. In simple plain terms, talk to Jesus aloud with your child. Thank him for the sunshine; pray for safety for passing siren-waling emergency vehicles; thank him for the peanut butter and jelly sandwich and the orange slices for lunch. Invite your kids to take turns praying too. “Who’d like to pray?” 
  3. Intentionally Share Jesus Stories. Preschoolers are drawn to stories with adventure,  superheroes, and excitement. The Bible is full of wild and exciting true accounts. With sincere excitement, cuddle up with your child and start the narration. “One day when Jesus and his friends were out walking…” Or “Did you know? There was one day when Jesus was on a boat…” “Jesus helped people! He …” The tales are endless and as the true picture of who Jesus was and is surfaces, our children will be entranced by how delightful and strong Jesus is. 
  4. Keep it short and simple. A toddler’s attention span is brief. Enjoy conversations with them, and grin when they race off to their next train of thought or toy. 
  5. Recognize that you are not choosing a faith for them. That is between them and God someday. But you definitely have something of value to pass on to them. Pray for them, love them, and enjoy times of sharing something that is of extreme value with them. 
Preschoolers are delightful, full of curiosity, and always learning. Enjoy talking to them about God in this time too.

What about you? How have people talked about their faith with you over the years? What has been meaningful to you? What do you want to carryover into your own life and pass on to others?

6 comments:

Shannon Milholland said...

With my little sweeties I've definitely seen the power of just chatting about God through the day. Another powerful tool has been making sure to acknowledge when God has answered our prayer and celebrating that with them. :)

tandemingtroll said...

I definitely talk to my kids through the day. However, when we all got together to fold clothes, I would tell a story about God and Jesus' final "huddle" before sending Jesus to the earth. The purpose of the story was to compare the superhero stories with Jesus' story--born to a couple of nobodies, witnessed by a bunch of nobodies and immigrants, no "cool" powers like superstrength/ bulletproof. The other purpose was to make them laugh and nothing can make kids laugh more than having Jesus want to wear red underwear over a blue bodysuit. :-)

AmyAlves said...

Hi Jennifer, I love being a light to my kids each day... letting my joy overflow into hugs and kisses for them and also letting them see my husband and I do our daily Bible reading together...when they ask why I am happy, I tell them because Jesus is helping me! Really, just the natural things of life! And sometimes, after all of their very in depth young questions, a humble answer of "I don't know" works well too! Great post, great conversation Jennifer! -Amy

Jennifer Dougan said...

Shannon,

Yes! Celebrating God's answers is powerful.

Jennifer
www.jenniferdougan.com

Jennifer Dougan said...

Tandemingtroll,

What a novel idea to have a clothes hamper huddle story time, and to wonder about that pre-sending to earth moment too. Thanks.

Jennifer
www.jenniferdougan.com

Jennifer Dougan said...

Amy,

Having our kids sincerely see us in God's word is pivotal, I agree. And, yes, an "I Don't Know" answer is sometimes the only answer, huh? :)

Jennifer
www.jenniferdougan.com