Sometimes Christian parents struggle with how to talk with their children about difficult subjects. They don’t want to burden their children unnecessarily. Death is one of the subjects that is difficult for parents to discuss. But the principles here apply to all difficult subjects. The general rule is to speak the truth in love without overwhelming your child with more information than is necessary.
1. Tell the truth.
Sometimes, out of love, parents want to shield their children from the difficult parts of life. But parents love their children best when they tell the truth quickly and plainly. God’s law is the very definition of love, and God’s law teaches us not to lie but to tell the truth (Col 3:9; Eph 4:15, 25). Titus 2:4 says that mothers are to “love … their children.” It’s loving to be truthful. Never hide the truth from your children.
Parents should use biblical words like “death” and “died,” when they explain what happened. They shouldn’t merely say, “Uncle Steve went to be with Jesus.” They need to be clear, and say something like this: “Uncle Steve died, and his body will return to the dust of the ground, just like the Bible teaches. Death is sad. It came into this world because Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden. Unless Jesus comes back, we will all die one day.”
Another important way to tell your children the truth is to let them see your grief. Don’t hide your grief from your children. Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus (Jn 11:35). Christians rightly grieve because of death; so, allow your children to see you and join you in your sorrow. Talk to them about your loss. Tell stories, and let them share how they are feeling with you.
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Tom Hicks serves as the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Clinton, LA. He's married to Joy, and they have four children: Sophie, Karlie, Rebekah, and David. He received his MDiv and PhD degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a major in Church History, emphasis on Baptists, and with a minor in Systematic Theology. Tom is the author of The Doctrine of Justification in the Theologies of Richard Baxter and Benjamin Keach (PhD diss, SBTS). He serves on the board of directors for Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary and is an adjunct professor of historical theology for the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies.