Introducing your child to the concept and the reality of God – Part V: Bring ‘God’ into regular conversation
Now that you have solidified your clarity around what you believe and think and know about God, you must ask yourself this question: What do I want my children to believe and think and know about God?
If you want them to know nothing at all about God until they are old enough to begin forming their own thoughts about who and what God is, then you may choose to say very little, if anything, about God in your home and around your children until they reach the so-called “age of reason” — generally around seven.
If you want them to come to know God as you have come to know God, but “get there” much faster than you did…or, if you want them to come to know God as you have come to know God rather than as many others have come to know God…then you may choose to speak of God, to refer to God, casually and affirmatively and cheerfully and lovingly in day-to-day conversation from your children’s earliest days, so that by the age of seven they will have tons of Already Received Data about God against which to consider what they will soon be encountering (or what they have already encountered) in the outside world.
Sooner or later your children will hear about “God” from sources others than you as they move through childhood, and they will bring what they are hearing up with you.
If you have firm beliefs about God (and I hope you do), you will want to share them then, in an age-appropriate way. But if you had previously taken the Don’t-Mention-It-Until-Asked route, do not be surprised if your children then say something like, “How come you never talked about God before?”—or words to that effect. You will need to be ready to answer such a question.
My suggestion would be that you might then say, “Well, sweetheart, lots of people have different thoughts and ideas about God, and we wanted you to be able to make up your own mind. But since you asked, here is what I feel in my heart is true…”
I must say, though, that I prefer the Casual-Mention-From-The-Beginning approach, in which you put God into your child’s world without fanfare or huge initial explanation.
For instance, when your child asks a question about certain things, you can bring God into your answer. Example: “Mommy, how did the stars get into the sky?” “God put them there, honey.”
Or, “Daddy, why does it rain so hard that it makes noise?” “Wow, that’s a good question, Sweetie. I think that sometimes God just makes it happen that way.”
Or, “Mommy, how can birds fly?” “Well, honey, God gave birds a special gift, just as God gives everyone special gifts. Birds can fly, but they can’t talk. They can sing, but they can’t use words. You can talk, but you can’t fly. But you can SING, just like a bird!”
By bringing “God” into regular conversation, it will be no time at all — perhaps on the very first mention — before your child asks, “Who is ‘God’?” Now you are answering a question, rather than starting from a place of trying to explain something, or even bring up something that the child doesn’t care about and hasn’t even expressed an interest in.
So the idea here is to ignite in your child an interest in God.
(Our discussion will continue here, with Part VI, in our next post.)