Good Friday for under 5s
We know that one of the things parents are sometimes worried about is when is it appropriate to tell their child about Jesus’ death. They need to know about it, otherwise the story of the Bible doesn’t make sense, but it is a hard story and can be upsetting.
So here are some pointers to help you decide what to tell your small person about Good Friday.
1 Remember that you are the expert in your own child
Every child is different. Your child might be very sensitive to others’ hurts. They may have recently experienced death, be fearful of it or be fascinated by it. So be guided by your child as you think about how to share the story of Easter with them. This article explains how different age groups might respond to the story.
2 Choose a way to tell it well
Bible storybooks for young children will include the story of Good Friday in an age-appropriate way. If you already have one at home, check it out and see what you think of the way it's told.
There are also lots of videos, such as this one told by the children of Christ Church Tunbridge Wells and this one from CBBC, which shares the story through sand art. Check them out before sharing them with your child to make sure you are happy with the content and theology.
3 Be led by their questions
The death of Jesus was brutal, and children don’t need to know all the details. It may be enough to say, ‘Jesus died and it was very sad.’ If they hear more details, perhaps in church, about Jesus being whipped or wearing a crown of thorns, check in to see how they are feeling. If they ask questions that you are not sure how to answer, you can try this simple four step model. For slightly older children, here are some simple theological explanations of what happened at Easter, which might give you ideas of how to word things.
4 Make it part of the big picture
It is worth remembering that the story of Good Friday is not a complete story. It only makes sense when we hear the story of Easter Sunday too. So do tell them together! Make sure your little person is aware that Jesus didn’t stay dead and that his death was a very important part of God’s story.
Consider exploring the story not just at Easter time but at other points in the year as part of the bigger story of the Bible. You might want to use a Bible storybook such as The Garden, The Curtain and The Cross.
5 Explain death as a part of life
One of the most wonderful things about the story of Good Friday and Easter Sunday is that it teaches us that death is not the end. Knowing about Easter demystifies death and gives children a perspective and hope that helps us deal with death.
Because of the death of Jesus, Christians know that one day, when they too die, they will be raised to a new life in heaven forever. Young children can be fearful of death, and the death and resurrection of Jesus can give them a new understanding of death and of the hope that is ours that will help them cope with death better.
You may have other opportunities to talk about death in everyday life, whether that’s passing a funeral procession or the death of a pet, friend or relative.
6 Get ideas from others
Anna shares how she approached it with her daughter:
When she was under two, we focused on the emotions of the people in the story and what they mean for us. Our summary was something like ‘Jesus died and people were very sad. Then he came back alive and they were happy. Now, we can be friends with God.'
When she was nearly three, she had more questions. We ended up focusing on the fact that Jesus didn't do anything wrong and how it must have felt for the people to be mean to him. This led to chatting about how we do things wrong and so we should really ‘get into trouble’. We used examples from her life of how she has to make things right when she’s hurt someone or made a mistake. Then shared the great news that Jesus took the punishment for us.
This year, she’s nearly four and has lots of questions about exactly what happened. Where did they put the nails? Why did nobody help him? Did they feel bad afterwards? She now knows the story so we are being led a lot more about what she has questions about.
We’ve always made a big deal of how exciting and important it is that Jesus came back alive. Dancing around to ‘1,2,3, Jesus is Alive’ has become part of how our family celebrates at Easter.
Here are some stories of other parents’ experiences:
- Should I tell my toddler that Jesus died
- How to talk to children about Jesus' death
- 7 ways to teach toddlers about Jesus
It may well look totally different in your family. Feel free to work out what it looks like for you. We'd love to hear your ideas and experiences.
However you share it, enjoy the privilege of being the one to tell them about the greatest sacrifice ever made and the amazing news that it is for them.