How do we talk about Jesus’ Death with children?

The idea that Lent is coming to an end and we will be soon celebrating Easter is exciting! Easter Sunday is such a joy, but when talking about this joy, we so often leave out the hard part of the Easter Triduum, Good Friday.

At school, I am always faced with the dilemma of how to explain Jesus’ death to my students and inevitably glaze over it, by mentioning that Good Friday is the day Jesus died and then quickly move to the Resurrection. However, a couple of weeks ago I presented my students with a drawing of the world on butchers' paper and asked them to write any question that they would like to ask God. Their questions challenged me to discuss and approach the idea of Good Friday differently. One year 3 student wrote “How did it feel when Jesus was on the Cross?”. They had a connection to Jesus, not only as a distant role model, but also as someone that they cared deeply about, in an intimate way. The students' questioning in time will become wondering and then turn into an acquired belief of truth. I’m not suggesting that discussing such questions is easy, but I do believe that explaining Jesus’ death actually isn’t as difficult as adults make it. You just need see it from a child’s point of view.

First you need to experience the topic and talk about it. Take your child to the Good Friday liturgy and discuss what they notice and feel. Why was it important to go to Church today? How did you feel there? Why did Jesus die? Let their understandings guide the discussion. It might surprise you how much they actually know already and the simple truth is that Jesus died for us. He died so that our sins could be forgiven and so we, the people of God, could have right relationship restored through His mercy and unconditional love for us.

Then it is important to make it meaningful for them. Use a practical analogy that is relatable. Think about the worst thing you could do to hurt your family and would need you to ask for forgiveness. What consequences might you need to face to make things right again? Now think about your parents doing your punishment for you. This is what happened on Good Friday. God gave his only son to make up for the wrong things His people had done.

Lastly, it is important to remind children that Jesus’ death is different to our's. Loss of a loved one in our lives is always hard. We are left hurt and overwhelmed by grief from the loss of a loved one. For me, this is the first Easter without my father and therefore the idea of God’s sacrifice through Jesus is even more incredible. Saying goodbye to my dad was the hardest thing I have ever done. While I prayed with gratitude to God for taking away his suffering, I was also challenged about how to continue living without him. This man had taught me to walk, ride a bike and fall in love with chocolate and I could not imagine a day without his voice, touch and understanding. My saving grace was the precious gift of memories that I get to keep forever, and the promise of my own faith which knew that God was now taking care of him. I can imagine that this is how the disciples felt when Jesus was being crucified. While we can use our loved ones to explain grief, we also need to remember that Jesus is not like us! Death was never the end but rather the beginning. He came back to us through the Resurrection, sharing God’s never ending love for us. That is the true miracle of Easter, and that should be our message to the children!

May God Bless you all this Easter season.