Note that these tips are for parents, carers and leaders talking to children about the concept of death. It is not necessarily a resource to support children grieving death.
1. Not God’s plan. Explain to children that death was not part of God’s first plan for his creation. When God created the world, it was perfect and there was no pain or death. But Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they didn’t follow God’s rules. That was when sin entered the world. The payment or the cost for sin is death. So because there is sin in the world everyone will one day die.
2. Explain why death occurs. Death is a forever goodbye. It means that the person will not come back. Death happens when important parts of our bodies stop working, especially our hearts and brains. Mostly people die when they are very old. But sometimes children and adults die if a part of their body stops working. When someone dies, we usually bury their body and we don’t see them again.
3. Death does not have to be the end. For Christians who follow Jesus, death is not the end. We know that when Jesus returns all those who follow him whether alive or dead will go to heaven. Jesus is now in heaven preparing a home for us. When we go to heaven, we will have a new body. This new body will have no sickness and pain and will not ever die. For people who don’t follow Jesus, death is very sad. Those who don’t follow Jesus don’t have a place in heaven. Therefore, it’s so important that we tell our friends and family about following King Jesus.
4. Sickness and death. Avoid saying that people die when they are very sick. This is because children know what it means to be sick and that is a common experience for them. But that doesn’t mean they are going to die. It is easier to understand that you die when a very important part of your body no longer works.
5. Death in the bible. In the bible children are faced with death in a way that can be confronting and is quite advanced for their age. For most children, their experience of death might be a pet or possibly an elderly relative. Some death in the bible is from old age. So that can be explained as above. ‘As we get very old our bodies eventually stop working. This wasn’t part of God’s first plan for his creation, it is a result of sin.’ But death in the bible also comes up in battle. Even more complex is that sometimes God commands his people to go into battle. This is very complicated for even adults to understand. So it is best to keep the explanation simple and succinct. ‘God wants everyone to love one another. But because of the sin in our world, sometimes people fight and in the Old Testament this could end in a battle where people would die. In some parts of the world when countries are angry at one another they might have a battle or war. This makes God very sad. We know that when Jesus returns there will be no more fighting, battles, war or death.’