Near as I can tell, the vast majority of kids go through a rather lengthy period of wanting to understand everything, asking tons of great questions. My kid is no exception. Normally, this is completely awesome. Problems arise when this inquisitive nature encounters things that I have no earthly idea how to explain in an age appropriate way.
Enter Easter and Passover.
So, for those of you who aren’t Jewish or Christian, let me give you the Cliff’s Notes version so you know the bullet you are dodging. Here’s the abridged Passover story:
Moses goes to Pharaoh and says, “Hey man, you should really free the Israelites!”
Pharaoh says, “No,” over and over again, and each refusal is met with horrific plagues visited on the people of Egypt (rivers of blood! Frogs! Boils! Hail! Darkness!). In spite of this, the refusals continue, until finally the Angel of Death is sent to kill all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians, passing over the Israelite families. At this point the Pharaoh finally agrees to let the Israelites go.
Easter, in brief, is no better:
Jesus spends his life going around doing nice things to people and stirring up political trouble. As a result, he has many enemies who want him dead. Realizing that he is about to be killed, Jesus has a somber final supper with his buddies. Afterwards, one of said buddies sells him out to soldiers, who arrest him and bring him to their leader. Said leader is about to release Jesus, but the people call for him to be killed, so he is nailed to a cross and left to die.
Your challenge? Explain these brutal, violent stories to a 4-year-old without scarring them for life!
I know, right? I’m kind of stumped, too!
So, here are some basic guidelines and a few examples of toned-down versions of the stories. Full disclosure: I’m not a child psychologist, and I’m definitely not an expert on your kid. So YMMV.
You know your kid best. Does your kid understand and feel okay about death? Go ahead and mention that detail. Is your kid terrified of insects? Maybe gloss over the plagues of lice and locusts.
Be prepared to answer follow-up questions. Particularly if you attend a Seder or an Easter service, your kid may tune into references from readings and want to know more of the story. Even if you don’t, if you choose to tell the story behind these holidays, you may be asked to tell it again and again.
Be careful of your terminology. You don’t want to use the term “crucifixion” if you aren’t prepared to define it, for example.
Ask your own follow-up questions. If your kid is wearing a confused expression, don’t hesitate to ask whether you can explain something again. Better now than in the middle of the night!
Remember that these celebrations occur every year. If your kid doesn’t seem into it, don’t force the issue; you’ll have another opportunity to explain things next time around!
And now for the toned-down versions of the story. I like this on for Easter:
Jesus had a strong message about love for God and other people, but not everyone agreed with him. Some people were so mad, they decided to get rid of him! But Jesus’ message was too strong – even after soldiers took him away, people remembered what he said about loving each other and being kind to others.
I find the Passover story a little trickier, but this version seems decent:
Moses went to the Pharaoh and said, “you make my people work so hard, you don’t even pay them! That isn’t right! You should let them go!” But the Pharaoh said, “no!” God thought Pharaoh was being unfair, and sent plagues of frogs and bugs, 10 different plagues! Finally, the pharaoh let the people go. They had to move fast, so there was no time for the bread to rise!
Have any tips for sharing these stories with your kids? Tell us in the comments!