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,

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it wasn't the erligious part that worried me i dont trust any adult that walks up to a child and starts talking to them with out parents but i grew up in away where i have enough molested freinds by stranger and family members that i find adult interaction with teens or children as kreepy unless it has a reason to transpire like education or social event but and adult neighbor walking up to a kid kreeps me out but then again i dont know any of my neighbors so they would be complete strangers.
No one in my family really 'knows' how I believe and consequently my son was 'saved' when visiting his grandmother.

I grew up in the church and have seen it many times. Never worried about it. These infections are less severe when acquired at a young age. It's like chicken pox.
My son spent some time worrying about death and dying last year; he would cry and say "I don't want you to die, Mom" and I would just comfort and reassure him without giving much energy to his distress. He knows that death is forever, but I don't think he really knows what forever is....
The service today was NOT secular, it was evangelist Christian stuff with a pastor "assuring" us that heaven is real and not just an idea. Luckily the boy was bored and restless and not paying attention to the person leading the services.
Hope your neighbors can be human about this.....
My daughter was around 5-6 when a friend of ours mother passed away. I was taken by shock when she came home one day and said so & so said Ms Lydia is in heaven. Given her age I didn't see any sense in going into a long logical discussion of reason, I simply told her that heaven was a name used by some people when they are talking about their memories. That sufficed at the time.

Last summer my father-in-law died. She was 10 and had more questions about heaven. I told her that the process that happens after death isn't very pretty, natural but not pretty, and can be very hard for some loved ones to accept occuring to their dead loved one, therefore, it's easier on the minds of believers to think about heaven. We discussed the decomposition breakdown in all animals, she concluded that it happens to everything that has died and there shouldn't be a reason to think humans are "specialer" (I know we are working on vocabulary) than horses, etc.

On a slightly funny note, she did tell me that her xtian friend told her heaven was in the sky. Before I said a word she said she told her "That's so stupid, don't you think planes would be running over all the people. Besides, I've been in a plane and didn't see any dead people and no ghosts talked to her either!"

Natural process or not, I don't believe that makes it easier on a parent (or anyone) when a child passes. I'm sorry to hear about your son's friend and hope he is doing ok.
I'm so stealing your ideas regarding "heaven was a name used by some people when they are talking about their memories" and ..."and can be very hard for some loved ones to accept occurring to their dead loved one, therefore, it's easier on the minds of believers to think about heaven" for my child if you don't mind.
In all fairness to the live forever vs. death ideas; the thought of living forever terrified me far more, even as a very young child, than the idea of dying. This included heaven, I would ask "But when does it end?". The unfathomably long time filled with doing the same thing was too much, leading to a greater fear of the 'cure' than the 'curse'.




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