death and kids

Years ago Neil Hamilton did post-grad research on how the death (or near death) of loved ones affects children’s spirituality in later life. When I was a child my Dad nearly died twice in theatre, and I agree with Neil’s findings, that far from doing harm, awareness of death can be beneficial to kids’ spiritual life.

Chinese youth group healthily approaching the topic with me, the week before my surgery.

Kids don’t need death to be hidden from them – they ask about it. Sure don’t horrify them, but name it, describe what you know. It’s good for them.
Death has been the theme of the month for my family, not only with my heart surgery. I have 4 kids aged between 5 and 9. They all handled the heart episode really well, seriously but not unduly alarmed. Good conversations about death, Jesus and Heaven.
But also they’re currently a bit anxious about “Bear,” one of our dogs, who will be put down tomorrow, having contracted some sort of spinal degeneration. So I’m not talking about death and kids in a theoretical way.
Over 5 weekly meetings, including before and after my heart surgery, I did the Core Stuff for Ellenbrook High School’s year 11 students. I was my own best object lesson!
  • On ANZAC day, before surgery we talked about being ready to die, heaven, hell, how we know. I told them how I felt and how come I was ready.
  • They worried for me the week I was away having surgery.
  • They cheered to see me the next week, and we talked about living in Jesus. We shared the journey, and this group, notorious for their silence in Christian Ed, asked many honest questions.
Dying is a part of life. As are questions like, “what happens after I die? How do we know? What do we have to do about it?” So let’s not hide it.