Recently, someone asked how to tell a young child the Easter story. The person was concerned how to talk about death and resurrection in a way that a young child will understand. I thought I might share with you how I responded.
Children learn best through story, so I would recommend that you create a special time and explain that you want to share a very precious story with your child. This communicates that this Easter story isn’t just any old story, but one that you hold very dear. If you have already explained Christmas as Jesus’ birth, build on that, encouraging the child to remember the baby Jesus and that this is another part of his story – a story of his later life when he was much older. And then tell the story as factually as you can and tell the whole story – meaning that you briefly start with Jesus’ ministry then go to Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. Tell the story with hope and joy, not death and sadness. This is the first time the child might be hearing the gospel story, so set the right tone from the beginning – this is awesome! We celebrate this because Jesus loves us! And we are now filled with hope and joy!
Also, don’t be afraid of big words like disciple or resurrection. But make sure if you use big words, you explain them. If they don’t ask you what they mean, ask them and then share the meaning with them.
And lastly, allow time to reflect and ask questions about things that don’t make sense. Spend time wondering with your child – what was it like to be a friend of Jesus? Wonder what it might have been like to see Jesus ride on a donkey with great exclaim and then be accused of such wrong doing later that week. What might you feel if saw Jesus again on that Resurrection morning! One good way to help reaffirm the story (and to make sure they understand the basics) is to encourage them to retell the story with you to another family member. Maybe you can share the story with another parent over dinner tonight and then again later with your entire family at Easter dinner. This helps the child remember the story and encourages it becoming part of the child’s own story.
As I write this, I sit here wondering what it is like to hear the Easter story for the first time. May we enter these next few holy days with that type of wonder.