In today's digital age, raising a child in a faith-based household can be made all the more difficult by the barrage of information at our kids' fingertips — information which can lead to more questions than answers. We asked other parents, as well as a pastor, for advice on answering the tricky questions about faith that may come up.
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Raising a child of faith is a monumental thing. Faith, as it's said, can move mountains. But fostering that faith isn't necessarily an easy task. As we all know all too well, kids love questions. And with information flying at them these days from the TV, the computer, peers and more, it's no surprise kids are asking the tough stuff earlier than ever.

Explains Pastor Marshall Locke, "Some of the popular questions that I've heard are 'Why did Jesus die? What is sin? Will I see my pet in heaven? When was God born? How do I know what God's will is? What do you mean by I felt God telling me... ? Where is heaven?'"

Such questions aren't exactly softballs, and it's not as though there's a field guide for tackling tough questions about faith. When we asked Pastor Locke and other parents for suggestions on addressing these sensitive subjects, though, they offered up a wealth of advice. Here's what they had to say on the subject.

Why did Jesus die? What is sin? Will I see my pet in heaven? When was God born? How do I know what God's will is? What do you mean by 'I felt God telling me... '? Where is heaven?

Lead by example

There's a reason the adage "Actions speak louder than words" resonates with so many people: There's truth in it. Often, the most powerful way to teach a child about faith is to live it yourself.

"My oldest son, who is 17, has said he is an atheist for a couple of years now," explains Sharon Schumpert. "He is oppositionally defiant so you can't tackle things head on with him or he will choose the opposite of what you want, so every opportunity I can I show him examples. Like how the really big truck kept us from getting around in parent pick-up, but when we did leave there was a tragic accident at the intersection was divine intervention — if the pick-up hadn't been there, it could have been us in the wreck."

"I believe that you should pray with your children as a family and not just the 'Now I lay me down to sleep' prayer either.

Amy McWhorter, whose daughter Madelyn is 5, suggests making your kids a part of that living example. "I believe that you should pray with your children as a family and not just the 'Now I lay me down to sleep' prayer either," she elaborates. "Pray and let your children see and hear you pray daily. This builds a strong home."

And while the catchphrase "What would Jesus do?" may sound trite to some, it's kind of the right sentiment, according to many of the parents we polled.

"We get taught all the time in church to think about what we are doing, saying, where we are, etc. and to stop and think about whether we would have to explain ourselves or turn the TV channel if Jesus were to come back at that very second," emphasizes McWhorter. "We need to always be ready, and that's what I want Madelyn and others to see in me."

Don't shy away from the "scary" stuff

In speaking to Pastor Locke and the parents we polled, several themes emerged, but perhaps none so prominent as the subject of heaven and hell. Or, through the lens of a child, death.

It's a subject Shannon Jones has broached with her four children and seen firsthand how difficult of a concept it can be for children to grasp.

"Lawson is terrified of death," she said of her 5-year-old son. "I've tried to talk to him about heaven, but he sobs like crazy. He told me he never wanted another birthday because he didn't want to get old and die and go to heaven. I then made the mistake of saying, 'You dont have to be old to die.' Huge mistake. It's so hard to explain to him what heaven is all about — he wants details and that's something none of us can give him. So for now we avoid the topic because it upsets him so bad."

He told me he never wanted another birthday because he didn't want to get old and die and go to heaven.

For Christine Rice, death is a topic instrinsically linked to parenthood and, subsequently, a conversation she often has with her kids. "My first husband passed away when Trinity was 6 months old, and she knows her Daddy Brian is always watching over her," explains Rice of her eldest daughter. "So when she does something like do well in sports or get good grades, she asks, 'Do you think Daddy Brian saw that?' I always tell her, 'Of course. That's one of the best things about heaven — he gets to see everything you do and not miss out on any of it.'"

Be honest

Here's the hard truth: You don't have all the answers. You never will. As a parent, that's a bitter pill to swallow. But there's beauty in it, too. There's a built-in learning curve — you and your children will grow together in faith as you explore it, but you have to be honest (with yourself and with your kids).

"Be willing to say 'I don't know,'" stresses Pastor Locke. "But always seek to find the answer and follow up." McWhorter always tries to follow this advice, citing the Biblical scripture of Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

Still, make it palatable

Yes, you should practice an "honesty is the best policy" approach when it comes to discussing religion with your kids. Having said that, sometimes you still need to tackle the subject matter in a way that is, well, kid-friendly.

"One of the most important things is to avoid clichés that only adults would understand," offers Pastor Locke. "Friday, my son Braxton asked me 'Who is God?' 'Creator of all' doesn't cut it for a 3-year-old, though. I responded 'Jesus's daddy,' instead. That opened up the door to follow-up questions instead of giving a closed answer."

Echoes Jeanne Moore O'Neal, "I think when difficult questions are asked, we tell the truth in a childlike way. For heaven, I just tell my kids MaMa's in heaven with her friends drinking coffee, restored and healthy. My 6-year-old seems to totally get that part."

Along these lines, understand that a child's mind is an amazing thing, but it can take time for their beautiful brains to grasp certain concepts. Enjoy the innocence in those little moments and just keep reinforcing whatever it is you are trying to teach your child.

"Jay calls our priest God because we say we're going to church for God. We correct him every time he says it, but it's still almost a weekly thing. 'Oh, what is God doing?' To which we say, 'Son, that's the priest, Father. Not God the Father,' laughs Alison McConoughey of her 4-year-old son.

Just remember....

Raising a child in a faith-driven home will be full of questions and, more than likely, a few bumps in the road. But the most important step is starting the dialogue while they are young and being willing to have an authentic conversation.

Be as accurate as you can without going over their heads.

"Being genuine is crucial," shares Pastor Locke. "Be as accurate as you can without going over their heads. Be willing to talk as long as they want to talk... don't rush because you're uncomfortable. Children's questions are special, and a wonderful time for you both to grow and learn."

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