Children under eight live in a world which is a mix of fantasy and reality. As they age past ten, reality starts to become the basis for everything. They will then understand the difference. If you are thinking about how to make sure your children truly understand what Easter means, you have to keep this in mind.
As Christian parents, we often want to make sure our children understand Christ is the reason for holidays like Christmas and Easter. This is something we do simply by emphasizing that part of the holiday. We explain how Santa is a different part of Christmas for some families, but the real reason for Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Most children can digest this easily. When you explain Christmas is about celebrating a birth most children can easily understand this and there is nothing scary about it. It becomes a bit more complicated when you have to explain what is essentially celebrating or commemorating a death. What makes this even more complicated is explaining how a death was meant to help the rest of us.
So, what do you do? First, you have to think about your child’s age. Some children, especially those under the age of eight, have no concept of death. Even worse, you do not want to scare them when you try to explain it to them. If your child has lost a pet or a family member, you can use that example to talk to them about Easter and what it means to your family.
Remember a child closer in age to ten is going to have a different understanding of what you are going to tell them than what you would tell a child of five. The best way to start is to be simple and to the point. Children do not need a lot of details, not at first. They cannot process a lot of complex details at once. You have to keep it simple.
Find a simple book about Easter and Jesus. Read it with them and wait for questions. If you know what you want to say, you won’t need a book, but keep the ideas simple and easy just like any children’s book would do. Do not dwell on things that are upsetting to children. We all know how Jesus was crucified, but there is no need for details about how violent it was. They can digest that when they are older.
Explain how Jesus was born on Earth as the Son of God. Some people did not believe Him and ordered Him to be hung on the cross. Then explain how He died and was entombed, and then talk about His resurrection. Again, keep all of this in the simplest terms you can.
Then, if you still have their attention, explain what His resurrection meant to us. Talk about where Jesus is now. Simply saying He died for our sins might not be enough. Children internalize everything. It might be helpful to explain this was a one-time event and there is nothing to fear. Emphasize the love He has for us when you tell the story.
Don’t worry about how simple you have made it. Simple stories work best. Most child won’t have an in-depth conversation with you about this, though certainly some children will. Instead, children tend to digest information in small increments. They will listen and run off to play. Later, they will come back and ask questions. This could go on for a while until they feel they understand what the story means.
While you feel it is important for your children to understand the true meaning behind Easter, remember learning about something so complex takes time. This is something an adult can digest as soon as you tell them because they have enough life experience behind them to understand it, but it is not the same for children. As they understand life and the world around them more and more, they will then too understand this as well.
You haven’t failed if you think they don’t yet get it. What you say will stick with them even if it does not seem as if they understand. Bunnies and Easter eggs are much easier to understand, so do not fret if they focus on those at first. As long as you are simple and clear, and answer their questions in simple terms, they will get it.
The concepts of sin, death, resurrection, eternity, and crucifixion are complicated. Even more complicated would be explaining how His death has become something of a celebration – something He did for us. Your ‘what Easter is all about’ talks may only come once a year, but living a good, Christian life throughout the rest of the year helps cement what the death of Christ really means.