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How to Explain Good Friday to a Preschooler, and Other Things Seminary Never Taught Me

josh-applegate-149609Good Friday is this Friday, April 14. Good Friday is all about the death of Jesus. The horrific, bloody death of Jesus.

This day is one of cornerstones of the Christian faith. It’s important. Essential, even. I want my kids to have a grasp of it from their earliest days. To have heard about the love of Jesus earlier than they hear about the Easter bunny or Shopkins or Paw Patrol or Elmo. To know in their souls that God loved them so much, he sent his only son for them.

Yet my preschooler already has nightmares sometimes about ladybugs and Thomas the Tank Engine, and I am not one of those magical unicorn women who can go weeks without sleep and still wear a smile (or form a sentence, honestly).

I want to tell him the story of Jesus. But I also want to respect where he is developmentally and emotionally, and not give him more than he can handle.

So… what to do?

Here’s what I’ve learned from motherhood school. No thanks to seminary.

1. Keep it simple

You can tell the story of Good Friday without being graphic. Details can grow as children age. At age 2 or 3, you can say Jesus gave himself for us.

Death is an ephemeral concept. The important thing for them to learn is that Jesus loved them so much he gave his whole self for them.

At age 4, my son began asking lots of questions about death, so we’ve been talking about the afterlife. Talking about the death of Jesus helps him know that even at the end of life, God is there. That Jesus himself died. That death is not the final word.

You know your kids and you know what comforts them, what scares them, and what they can comprehend. The story of Good Friday is an intense one. So go softly and simply until you sense they’re ready for more.

The Jesus Storybook Bible has a great take on the crucifixion story. It’s sad and somber, but appropriate for most 4-5 year olds.

2. Use visual aids

Our MOPS group made these awesome “Resurrection eggs” a couple of weeks ago, and my preschooler looooooves them. For each of the twelve days preceding Easter he gets to open an Easter egg. Each egg contains an object that helps tell part of the story – coins, nails, thorns, a leaf, a cloth, perfume on a cotton ball.

Kids are visual learners, so tell the story with props. Let them touch them, play with them, smell them, handle them.

You can find an example of Resurrection eggs printables from another momma here.

3. Pray as a family

On Good Friday, take a couple of minutes to thank Jesus for what he’s done together with your kids.

At our house we’re pretty good at thanking him around mealtime and before bed, for the things of the day and for our food.

(Though, to be honest, the preschooler’s before meal prayer often sounds like, “DearJesusweprayforourfoodamen” and he has a forkful of mac n’ cheese in his mouth halfway through. We’re getting there.)

But to pause with your kids and say, “Jesus, thank you for what you did for me. How you gave yourself for me”? That’s powerful.

4. Start a tradition

My friend Bethany, who blogs over at Child of the Church, and leans toward the Catholic side of things (hence the Jesus candle below) has three kids and a brilliant mind. Here’s what she does.

On Good Friday she reads a simple Bible story to her kids about the death of Jesus. They drape a cross in black, cover a table in a black tablecloth, and put Jesus in the “tomb” (under the table).

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There he stays until Easter. (Or until the kids pull him out to use as a football because, well, they’re kids…)

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Easter morning the table is covered in a flowered tablecloth and the kids each have an Easter basket of goodies.

How do you celebrate Good Friday with your kiddos?

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