Easter is a central holiday to the Christian faith, and its celebration is a wonderful time for your family to come together. But sometimes it is easy to overlook that children don’t yet understand how all the different parts of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection fit together. Celebrating Easter with your children, without them understanding Good Friday which comes before it, is like jumping to the triumphant end of a movie, without having watched everything that led up to it. But it can be difficult to teach your children about something as serious and sad as Good Friday. Where does one even begin?
Context for the story
Your children are exposed to a lot of different stories about Jesus, and what they remember or understand isn’t always in chronological order. So do yourself a favor and anchor the story of Good Friday to other stories they do know: “After these stories of Jesus’ ministry, but before Easter…” can go a long way to helping the concrete thinking mind of a child understand what’s happening.
Use age appropriate language and themes
You know your children, and are the best judge of what kind of terminology and themes they are ready to process. You don’t want to frighten them by going into too much detail about the crucifixion before they are ready, and you don’t want to confuse them with more characters and locations than they can keep track of. Remember, you know the story, but for someone hearing it for the first time, it is a lot of information to take in. All of that being said, gage your audience as you are talking to them. You might be surprised by what they perk up and show interest in.
What Jesus did for us
To understand the story of Jesus’ death, it is important that your children understand why it happened in addition to what happened. While remember to keep it geared to what your child can understand, you should explain to them that Jesus sacrificed himself to save all of us from our sins. Take your time to understand with your child what sin is, and that Jesus made this sacrifice for everyone, including them. The fact that Jesus did this in a real, personal way for your child, will help tie them to the story and underlines why it is all so very important.
It’s a big job, instructing your children in the ways of the Christian faith. But remember that you are up to the challenge, and you are not alone. Pastors, Sunday School teachers, and fellow parents from your congregation are all resources to help. Trade experiences with parents who have been where you are now. If your children have questions about the story that you don’t feel equipped to answer on your own, tell them you’ll ask your congregation’s pastor together. This will not only get you both the information you need, but will show your child that it is alright to ask questions to clarify and strengthen their faith.
You don’t have to do it all at once
It is difficult to cover a story as big and important as Good Friday, without feeling as if you are leaving some things out. As they mature, you can add in more of the details, context and characters. The important thing, especially when they are little, is to get the main themes of the story across in a way they can understand. That way, as they grow and mature, the story can be built upon the foundation that you started laying when they were younger.
Photo Credit: Cohen