Religion and Death: Tackling the Tough Issues with a Kid

Posted on Wednesday, January 26, 2011 by Alex R. Cronk-Young

A while ago that Parenthood show had an episode that tackled a parents trying to explain death to their daughter. Honestly, I've never really been sure why this is a hard thing for a lot of parents.

Early last year one of our horses gave birth in the middle of the winter. Despite our best efforts the baby didn't survive. We took Emmy to see the baby when it was born, so we also took her to say goodbye when it died. We didn't jump around and find a silly way to explain it to her, we just told her it had died. Dying meant that you weren't alive anymore. She didn't have trouble understanding. She told us she was sad that it had died and she said goodbye to it.

Later I bought her some pet goldfish because she'd hurt herself and...well, I wanted to. They didn't last very long, most likely due to the fact that they were grocery store goldfish. I didn't hide them from her or run to the store to buy new ones that looked just like the dead ones. I told her they had died, we walked down the hallway together to put them in the toilet, and she waved goodbye to them as I flushed it. I bought her some new ones and they also died after a few weeks. We went through the same routine and I told her we'd wait awhile and buy her some better pets in a few years.

In that episode of Parenthood, the parents of the little girl weren't religious and didn't want to use the concept of heaven, which they didn't even really believe in themselves, to comfort their daughter. After a few minutes of consoling her, the mother cracked and told her about heaven. Maybe some kids take the idea of death harder than others, but this wasn't an issue at all for us.

I'm agnostic. I don't adhere to any religion whatsoever. If there is a higher power, than I'd prefer he judge me based on how I've lived my life and not whatever hoops I jumped through in a church. Zoe is probably agnostic as well, I'm not entirely sure. The point is, I'm not hiding the idea of heaven of a god from Emmy, I'm just purposely avoiding it until she is old enough to make her own decisions. Telling a two year old about God and heaven pretty much assures that is what they will believe. They don't question things at that age, you're just heaping a belief onto them. How do you think the Westboro Baptist Church gains new members? They have kids and raise them with their stupid beliefs.

When Emmy is older I'll tell her what I believe and what other people believe. It's up to her to make that choice. My sister is very religious, despite my father being staunchly atheist and my mother being numb to the whole issue on account of a crazily-over-the-top Baptist Church she was forced to attend at a young age. That's her decision and I'm fine with it.

I'd be just as upset with my dad if he started pushing Emmy towards atheism as I would my mother-in-law if she pushed her to be religious. I don't think anyone can even start making that decision until at least their late teens.

1 Response to "Religion and Death: Tackling the Tough Issues with a Kid"

Brian S Says....

I like your approach. I think it's best for a kid to decide their own beliefs instead of a parent forcing their religion on them. I think if I had a kid, I'd worry about my parents trying to push their beliefs on him/her. Things could get quite ugly....

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