My five and a half year old son hasn't been exposed to any religious ideas in our home and our immediate circle of friends, and though we knew these ideas would come into his life one day, we were hoping it would be later than this and something easier to deal with....
He goes to a small, secular private school that has about 35 students ranging from preschool to second grade and from many different cultural and religious backgrounds. They are very careful to avoid religious instruction, but kids do talk to each other and share their ideas, so I'm sure my son has heard some religious talk there.
One of his classmates passed away this weekend, suddenly and unexpectedly from a bacterial infection. The boy was only six years old and the staff, students and families are all grieving. Counselors were brought in and the boys parents even came in to be with the kids while the counselors were there. I sat with the class and watched the counselors read a couple of books about dying to the kids. There were short mentions of religious beliefs, but no assertions about where people go when they die, just explaining that some people believe this or that etc.
My son came home from school yesterday telling me these facts: C. is in heaven with god and also in a box in the cemetery. I just asked him a few questions about what he thinks and left it at that.
I'm interested in input from you folks about discussing these ideas with a five year old. I am against saying things like "heaven doesn't exist" or "there's no such thing as God", but I feel a little unprepared for this. So far it hasn't been brought up again, but we plan on attending the memorial (I don't know if it will be religious or not, but it's not at a church) and I know there will be more discussions to come.
Thanks for your time,