Since my husband and I have been married, we've been teachers for the children in our church. Along with that job comes the responsibility to teach the kids about who Jesus is, to tell them they are children of God and to teach doctrine simply so they'll not only understand but also love it.
It's fun to see their eyes light up when they learn about Heavenly Father. It's rewarding to hear them tell stories about helping out kids at school because they want to serve people the way Jesus would.
And that's why it was pretty memorable when one of the kids we teach said with absolute conviction, "I don't want to go to Heaven!"
It felt like a stab to my heart. Why wouldn't he want to go to Heaven? After everything he had been taught at church and at home, why wouldn't he want to go there?
I asked him what he meant by that, and I finally got it out of him: he knew Jesus died for him, and he knows Heaven is wonderful, but he doesn't want to die. And that's when it all made sense to me and geared me up for how to discuss Heaven with my child when I become a mother.
Here are some things to remember about discussing Heaven with your child.
Let children know they are not going to die like Jesus died
We teach the story of Jesus' death; and, because we're adults and have a bigger picture of his sacrifice for us, sometimes we don't realize how scary it can be when children hear how Jesus had to die on a cross and be brutalized before he rose up to Heaven. Make sure to tell them He did what He did so they don't have to go through that same kind of experience.
Teach them about who is already in Heaven
Go over old photo albums, or tell stories about relatives or friends who are already in Heaven, happy and waiting to be reunited with the rest of their loved ones. Teach children about the beautiful lives these people led, which led them to Heaven.
Don't make Heaven sound so far-fetched
Kids are inundated with fantasy already from their video games, TV shows and wild imaginations. When discussing Heaven, don't make it sound like just another unrealistic place they see on their television sets. Although we don't know exactly how Heaven will be, talk about what we do know. Discuss families, happiness, beauty and being with Jesus. It doesn't have to be wildly imaginative to make children love and appreciate it.
Focus on how to live a good life and how to love God
Let your children know Heaven is a byproduct of how this life is lived and what you do with it. Focus teachings on making the right choices, loving God, loving their brothers and sisters and being kind. Let them know that getting to Heaven will happen if they live good lives and that they don't have to worry about anything else.
Don't stress out if they don't want to go to Heaven
I know it's hard to hear your kids say it. But chances are, the reason they don't want to go to Heaven right now is because they're scared. Death is scary and so is the unknown, even to us adults! As they live, learn, grow and constantly have your love, nurturing and good example, they will eventually see Heaven as a product of righteous living-and not just a product of death.