7-year-olds want to know about everything, even about heaven. Here some tips to explain heaven to a 7-year-old.
So, how do you explain heaven to a 7-year-old? Heaven is a beautiful place people go when they pass away. Their bodies stay here, but they aren’t actually gone. If we live a good life and help others, we will get to go to heaven when we pass away as well.
While talking about heaven and death with a 7-year-old be honest and straightforward. Using euphemisms about death may confuse a young child. While we want to be sensitive and loving when talking about difficult issues such as these, we do not want to mislead a child by dancing around the truth of things.
Heaven to a 7-Year-Old
Children may become curious about heaven for a variety of different reasons. The different reasons a child may become curious warrant different respones.
For example, a child that hears good people go to heaven in Sunday school may need a different explanation of heaven then a child whose brother died unexpectedly.
We never want to lie or mislead a child, but we do want them to take away different things depending on our discussion. Let’s talk about some strategies for different situations you may experience.
Explaining Heaven to a Curious Child
This is probably the most common reason a child would come to you with a question about the afterlife. Whether you are religious or not, talking about heaven is everywhere.
Heaven appears in pop songs on the radio. It may pop up in a movie or kids show. And how often do we say “Aw man, I’m in heaven!” When we take a bite into our chocolate bar. Whether you want it to happen or not, sooner or later your child will here about heaven.
A child often asks, “where is heaven?” or “what is heaven like?” They may even wonder if they themselves are worthy to go to heaven and what they need to do to get there.
There are a lot of ways to approach this questions, but I will divide my answers between religious and non-religious.
The idea of heaven is similar throughout cultures and denominations. When we die, we will be judged by our thoughts and actions in this life.
If we become a good person during mortality, then we will be rewarded and permitted to enter heaven. If we become a bad person, then we will be sent to hell, back to earth, etc.
Though the specific details of the afterlife may change from denomination to denomination, there are a few simple things that can be applied to just about any faith group.
When a curious child comes to you with questions on heaven, use this as a good opportunity to teach morality.
Tell your child that heaven is a wonderful place where they get to be with the people they love. They won’t ever get sick, or be hungry or tired. It’s the absolute best place to be, but we have to be good in order to get there.
It’s a lot like this life. In order to get something you want in this life (time with friends, a new toy, ice cream, etc.) you have to be good, help out around the house, finish your homework, etc.
It’s the same thing if we want to get to heaven. In order for us to go to heaven, we have to be good in this life, be helpful, and finish our work, whatever that may be.
Explain to your child that we don’t have to do everything perfect to enter heaven. If we try our best and follow God, then we will go to heaven.
If you yourself do not pertain to a certain religion, your child will probably still come knocking with questions about heaven. Do not push your child away in situations like this.
If you are dismissive about your child’s serious questions or laconic in explanation, your child will feel less inclined to come to you with questions in the future. Be patient and loving, always.
Explain to your child that some people believe that they will be rewarded after they die. Stress to them that you can still be a good person in this life even if you do not believe in an afterlife.
Also, that a lot of people talk about heaven in a sacred way and that it isn’t OK to mock something sacred even if we don’t think it’s important. We can still respect other peoples opinions.
In all cases it’s a good idea to discuss morality with your child. Help your child understand what is right and wrong and how to lovingly treat other people.
Explaining Heaven to a Distraught Child
The Second reason a child may come to you is due to a death in the family. More often than not, someone will say, “don’t worry, grandma is in another place now.” or something similar.
When a child comes to you after a tragedy like this, they are seeking comfort rather than lengthy discourses on the afterlife.
These are especially trying times, and you won’t be able to drop the issue after one five minuter conversation. Be patient in helping your child understand that death is a natural part of life and that it is OK to grieve.
There are some things that both religious and non-religious homes can do to help with a grieving child.
When a child is mourning, a prolix sermon on morality is not going to be very useful. In fact, it’s important to remember that death is a hard concept for a 7-year-old to even understand. At this age, they still lack the maturity to grasp that someone is actually gone.
With that being said, you still can’t mince words. If you lie or dance around the issue, a child could become seriously alarmed or confused.
Explain to a child the reason someone died but in a simple non-graphic way. If someone died due to age, for example, say that as we get older, our bodies stop working and we pass away.
Something similar could be said in the case of an accident or a death caused by disease. Explain that their body was injured, doctors tried to help, but it still stopped working.
Whatever the case may be do not lie and say that the person went away, or had to move or something like that. When a child finds out that you lied to them, it could lead to deep seeded resentment and trust issues that could seriously damage your relationship.
There are some different strategies you could use to explain heaven in a religious and non-religious home that I will discuss briefly.
When explaining to a child that the soul goes to heaven, they are often curious as to what happens to the body here on earth. Explain that the body stays here, but that isn’t the actual person.
Still be direct though, and tell your child that the person in question has died. There is no getting away from that part.
The spirit of that person continues on to heaven where they will be free from pain, and with the people that they love.
Children around 7-years-old may have a lot of questions as to why someone died. I have read stories of children acting out death plays or drawing pictures about death.
While it may seem tempting to curb these activities they are healthy ways for kids to process their emotions. Don’t be afraid to express your own grief, but be an example to your children. Learn to handle your own grief and you can support your child in their own grief.
At all times be honest about what happened. It may seem harsh to use the words, “died” and “death” but they are essential to helping your child understand what is going on now, and later in recovery.
Even if you don’t have all the answers about heaven continue to be loving and supporting with your child’s questions.
Love and patience are often more important than any answer we may give.
How can I help my grieving child? It can be difficult to comfort a little child especially when they don’t fully understand what’s going on. Be honest with your child and give clear explanations on the problems around them. Be loving and supportive to your grieving child.
If depression persists, take your child to a grief expert who can give you specific direction.