Amy Meltzer's latest post at Homeshuling got me thinking about the big questions about God that kids ask their parents and teachers. Who is God? Where is God? Why does God make bad things happen? While adults seem like wise, all-knowing beings, a lot of the time we're still figuring it out for ourselves. Ideas about God can take a long time to develop and are deeply personal, and can't be explained as easily as why the sky is blue or disproving the theory of "boy cooties." How does one begin to talk about God with a child?
I like this article by Rabbi David Wolpe from Interfaith Family because he emphasizes that in Judaism, there's no one idea about God. There are many different interpretations. In discussions with children, even the grown-ups can learn something.
Rabbi Wolpe lists some thoughtful tips about how to talk to your kids about God, including the importance of telling stories. Many of our books are based on midrash, which is a form of interpretation of the Torah that fills in the gaps that a plain reading of the text leaves out. Bible stories like Abraham's Search for God and The Seventh Day use midrash to help form an answer to a child's questions about God. To go along with Rabbi Wolpe's article, reading stories like these and asking your child what he or she thinks can help kick off the discussion and grow your child's own understanding about God.
What about when bad things happen? The book Where Do People Go When They Die? tries to answer that very question in a simple and open-ended way so that families and educators can read it with a child. Though it's a difficult question to answer, this book provides comfort in a time of uncertainty.
Just as children grow up and form their own ideas about God and the world, we learn that it's enriching for us as adults to step out of "fact-mode" and pose some of the same questions to ourselves.
Topmost book image from Wikimedia Commons.