Preschoolers often have big questions. To them, their questions aren’t so big. As they encounter new experiences that range from scraping a knee to a death in the family, they are simply trying to make sense of the world around them. However, to the adult of whom the question is asked, who has more life experience and understanding, the answer may seem very complicated. So, we wonder: How in the world am I going to explain this?
Between my three younger siblings and the in-home daycare that my mother ran, I grew up surrounded by children. I also grew up listening to my mom offer countless pieces of wisdom to parents in need of encouragement and advice. As a Director of Christian Education for six years, I often encountered parents at a loss for what to say, especially when it came to topics such as death, sex education, or even just talking personally about their faith in God beyond rote prayers and basic facts. Three years ago I transitioned from DCE to preschool teacher (which has been quite the adventure), and I have had some amazing conversations with four-year-olds on topics that are very deep to an adult, but really are just innocent, curious conversation to a child.
Within both vocations, I’ve noticed that many adults seem afraid of what to say to children—from preschool-age to teenagers. We can get into specific ideas about particular topics in the future, but let me first share my general approach to having conversations with curious young (or older) ones.
Hear my disclaimer loud and clear: I do not have all the answers. But I am passionate about raising children and passing on the faith, and I hope this will be a blessing and encouragement to you. These questions may arise anywhere, but they especially seem to come up during Sunday School. Having a base for how you will respond to big questions will help in those moments when you need to answer one.
Always Tell the Truth
“If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth.” John 8:31–32
You can speak simply and truthfully to a child at the same time. It never serves anyone well to make up an answer because it seems easier or less harsh.
One helpful thing to keep in mind is that a small child does not need as much information to be satisfied as you think they do. So, start small and see what they need. For example, when a child asks, “Why does Riley look different than me?” don’t make it complicated. “God makes every person different” is an answer that is both simple and truthful. If they need to know a little more, you could expand by saying, “God makes some people to be boys and some people to be girls. That’s just part of His special design.” The point is, children don’t need complicated answers about genes or chromosomes or other over-their-head information. That would be silly and inappropriate. Just use their questions as opportunities to nurture faith and trust in God, their Creator.
Set Your Mind on Things Above
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable … think about these things.” Philippians 4:8
What you fill your mind with will naturally flow into your conversations, including those with children. So, fill your own mind with the things in which you want to fill your child’s mind. Allow me to say this another way: go to church and Bible study. Give the Holy Spirit opportunity to teach you and build up passion in you to pass on what you’ve learned to your children.
Take It to the Lord in Prayer
How many times have you agonized over what to say or do before finally realizing, “Duh! Have I even prayed about this yet?!” God promises you wisdom to face your fears and trials. Put a note on your mirror, a reminder on your phone, or a written message on your hand to remind you: Have I prayed about this yet?
Pray that God would give you the words to say and that He would guide your conversations. Pray for opportunities to have such faith-building conversations. Pray words of thanks for the gift of children and the blessing of their curious minds.
God be with you as you continue to nurture faith through important conversations.
Nurture the habit of regular, confident conversation with God in your children, helping your family grow in faith together!