Answering a Preschooler’s Hard Questions: Who is God?

Family Matters on 09.13.11
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If "where do babies come from?" is the Cadillac of all preschooler questions, "who is God?" has to be the Rolls Royce limo of three-year old inquiries. It has everything you'd want in a tough query: mysticism, controversy, existential underpinnings.

At this stage of his life, W may not know who God is, but he certainly has a secure grasp on where he or she resides: in the Baptist church across the street from our apartment in Brooklyn. "That's God's house," he regularly points out to me. Apparently, God has multiple homes, also claiming an address at the church in Padua, Italy where W attended his second cousin's wedding this summer.

I consider myself to be on the more relaxed end of the parenting spectrum -- bedtime is a fluid thing and getting dirty is encouraged -- but answering W's questions brings out the neurotic in me. I blame most of the anxiety on my generation's determination to raise the happiest, most confident, most well-rounded children who have ever walked the Earth. So conscious are we of protecting our offspring's delicate psyches that we obsessively watch our words, limit TV and other mind-numbing activities and aggressively encourage the development of imagination, if such a thing can be aggressively encouraged.

If there's a wrong answer to the God question, I'll probably give it. This fills me with dread. I worry about confusing W and also about giving him a sense of spirituality that differs greatly from my own.

Enter, Sharon Peters, ready to save the day. An expert on talking to your kids, Peters has already helped me navigate a handful of W's challenging questions. For the God conundrum, she suggests keeping things simple by explaining it from your own point of view. "I think it's important to share your values with your kids," she says. "If you want to raise your child in a religious framework, just explain things in that way."

She makes it look so easy. I, on the other hand, still stumbled, attempting to explain the concept of a "higher power" to a kid who currently speaks of nothing but super heroes and Transformers. But, I went with that, describing God as a magical force -- super hero-like-- that protects us and helps to make our hopes and dreams come true. You can talk to God whenever you want, I continued. He's always listening.

W's eyes narrowed and then he hit me with the final question of the day: "Does God wear a cape like Batman?"

 

Photo: dotcompals/Creative Commons

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