Thursday, January 19, 2006

Teaching About Difficult Topics

From this week's Christian Carnival comes this question from Ron Stewart,

I have a question to pose though about whether or not we should be teaching our children about hell at a young age. Is this right? Okay, multiple, related questions. Are we shortchanging our children by hiding this aspect of our faith? Is hell something to avoid on grounds of maturity, or are we simply afraid to talk about a rather unpleasant topic (to say the least)? I'm beginning to wonder.
I'd like to broaden his question a little and discuss teaching our children not just about hell but many difficult topics. Children have a natural curiosity and wonder about all that is going on around them. Their questions are spontaneous. Usually triggered by an event, observation, or something they read. Some "why" questions are provacative and deep. The kind that make a parent think, "are they old enough to know about that yet?"

Anyone who reads the bible aloud to their children will introduce some difficult and deep topics. Sometimes deeper than a parent wants to go. And just as Ron wonders, should they even go there at such a young age. Hell is just one topic. But it could be death, adultery, or intimacy in marriage.

Here is the one place that I think homeschooling excells. Their questions are captured immediately and and someone is available to answer. Maybe not always to the satisfaction of the child but not dismissed as irrelevant or ignored. Together parent and child can search out an answer.

I remember one such "questioning" time for our family. I just had my first miscarriage. It ignited many questions from my chilren. Where is the baby? Why did the baby die before we got to hold it? Along with those questions were the prayerful ones that also came. After the miscarriage my daughter prayed that the very next day I would wake up with another baby in my tummy. She then looked up at me with tearful eyes and said, "Mommy God can do that can't he?

The questions flowed and we were there to hear them all. One humorous question came from my son. The miscarriage began to spin his brain into high gear. One day he said, "Mom, if you and dad had never gotten married would I still be here. I mean as Joshua but maybe just born into another family but still me?" (I could see the "where do babies come from" discussion coming.)

"Well, not exactly." I replied. "You wouldn't be here if mommy and daddy hadn't gotten married. You're like a puzzle that God fitted together. He takes the pieces and puts them together to make you. " (I was hoping that this would satisfy him.)

"Oh, is that like that song we sing (he begins to sing) 'DNA is what you say. It makes you what you are today?' "

"Yes, that's right. We can get a book on that at the library." (Hoping to steer the conversation toward DNA.)

Undistracted my son said, "What did dad's DNA just leap into you one day and you were pregnant?" (Um yeah.)

Let's face it the thoughts are there. They want to know. It's the conversations that can be difficult. We can't avoid them. Nor do I think we should. When a child is asking the questions someone needs to be there to give guidance in the answers. When a child is not around someone willing to listen to all their questions for many hours, these questions are left to linger. Some go unanswered and are forgotten. Or worse left to be answered by someone else. I am thankful my children ask the tough questions. But I'm even more thankful we are able to be hear them all.

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