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Your Child: 5 to 8 years

Encouraging Heavenly Hope

I almost lost my grip on the steering wheel when my daughter blurted out yet another tough question: "What is Jesus going to say to you when you get to heaven, Mommy?"

After some quick soul searching, I did my theological best:

"Well Sweetie, I hope he says, ?Well done, good and faithful servant.'"

"Oh," she answered, "when I get to heaven Jesus is going to say, ?Laura, do you want to do baking?'"

I believe she was right.

According to developmental specialist Marlene LeFever, children at this age can be described by one word: curious. Their curiosity naturally leads to thoughts of heaven and eternity.

As your child's ability to understand tough concepts?like heaven?develops, his questions on spiritual matters will become more difficult to answer. What you say can be overshadowed by how you say it, so don't work so hard at being precise that you confuse your child with too many facts. Instead, make sure your words convey the truth and hope of Scripture.

"When a child asks a question about God or heaven," says LeFever, "she isn't asking for a theological or big-picture answer. When we respond with delight and encourage her to share her opinions, we are not only enlarging her vocabulary, but also keeping her spiritually sensitive and growing."

If, for example, your family's pet parakeet dies and your child wonders if he'll see his bird in heaven, don't get bogged down in the unique act of God breathing life into the first man, as a bearer of his image. Instead, talk about God's great love for us and his desire for his children to spend eternity with him. It's up to us as parents to nurture our children's sense of hope and wonder.

When an elderly relative, neighbor or church member dies, it presents a natural opportunity to teach your children about heaven. My children are very close to their grandparents and know that someday Grandma and Grandpa, who have loved and served God all their lives, will be gone. We like to imagine the Lord saying, "Hugh, it's supper time. Come home now," or "Drop everything, Doris, dinner's ready." And we know they will hear and obey.

I may have the facts, but my children have the faith. When I sense my weary spiritual eyes developing cataracts, I take a closer look at the hope of heaven through the pure, wide-eyed belief of my children. Together we can be joyful in hope (Romans 12:12), waiting for the happy day we will hear the call, "Come home. The party is ready to start."

?Margaret Brouillette
Religion teacher, mother of three children

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