Talking about the Death and Resurrection of Jesus
The death and the resurrection of Christ is a hard concept for any aged person, but for children it is especially hard. Yet, our Christian faith centers on these concepts. Often as adults we shy away from these difficult topics with children. Unfortunately, this just pushes a child to deal with a tough subject on his or her own and perhaps carry that childish view into adulthood.
It is important to understand how a child can comprehend the death and resurrection of Christ, based on his or her faith development.
Preschoolers are very literal and do not understand abstractions. They have a vague sense of death and rarely can they separate make-believe from reality. Focus on feelings: sadness when Jesus dies, happiness when he comes alive again in a "new and special way."
Young Elementary Age
Young elementary-age children do understand that people who die do not come back; therefore they do fear death. These children also are the ones who wonder what happens after death. These children need to focus on the resurrection so that they can start to move out of the scariness of death, but the resurrection may still be magical and not miraculous.
Older Elementary Age
Older elementary-age children are logical thinkers, and they can deal with the facts about the Easter story. They are ready to move toward another understanding of the resurrection, as in God's love for us. These children may have trouble saying what they mean, but they understand a lot.
Some of the questions that often come from the children when we discuss the last days of Christ are exactly the same questions adults might ask also. Think through the following questions for yourself and then in light of the age of the child who might ask these questions. Remember that children want simple, easy, direct answers.
"Why did the people kill Jesus?"
"Why did God let Jesus die?"
"Jesus was God's son, so it didn't hurt him did it?"
"How did his body get out of the tomb?"
"What did Jesus look like when he got out of the tomb?"
"How come some people didn't recognize him?"
"How could Jesus appear and disappear?"
(from Donald and Patricia Griggs' book, Teaching and Celebrating Lent/Easter)