I came around “When Children Ask About God” a while ago when I was looking for children’s books about God on Amazon.com. It was one of the related recommendations. However, this book is not for children. It is for adults. It is written by a Rabbi, who is also the author of “When Bad Things Happen to Good People“. The book is definitely not a “possible questions => reasonable answers” list type of a book. If you are looking for a word-by-word transcript answer to “How does God answer our prayers?”, you’d be disappointed. However, this book does more than that. (I’d like to include a quick disclaimer that the book is written by a Jewish Rabbi, therefore there are areas which might not apply to other religions but is definitely not limited to Judaism)
I believe in God and I think, I have a personal understanding of what I believe God is. This understanding was primarily taught to me by my parents and then expanded with what I’ve experienced, learned and read. I believe everyone’s understanding of God is different from each other, even from parent to child, from sibling to sibling. Even though the book has obvious influence of Jewish religion and script since the author is Rabbi , and I am not Jewish, I found the explanation of God in the book quite close to my understanding.
Knowing something doesn’t mean you can explain it to others well though. My problem with talking about God and things related to God to my children was, not finding the right words and expressions they could understand and relate to. This book equipped me, in general terms, with those appropriate definitions and explanations, so when my children ask me any question related to God, I can put what I have in my mind and heart, into the right words for them.
Here is how Kushner explains “the task of teaching children about God in two not-so-simple steps”, which was exactly what I got out of this book:
“First, we must come to a clear understanding of what we ourselves are ready to believe about God. And then, we have to translate this concept into “words of one syllable”, geared for a child’s understanding.“
Kushner helps parents avoid traps such as referring to God as human and attributing God humanly characteristics. So when we talk about God to our children, they won’t ask us back if God is watching us from up above and scratching his white beard if we do something bad. He helps with how to better explain intangible and abstract concepts to younger children. Author refers to child psychology and development experts such as Piaget. He explains different ways of appropriately explaining main concepts about God for various age ranges.
The book covers many questions related to prayer, “acts of God”, health, death and even Santa Claus. When answering basic questions about God, he provides various scenarios and examples. The answers are not from Torah or Bible. It also touches on religious words such as sin, commandment, judgement etc. He encourages parents to instill their children internalized standard of right, instead of scaring or rewarding them with God.
Kushner also admits that there will be many times when we have to say “We don’t know for sure and we may never know.”, which I’ve never thought of to be honest. I always though I have to find and give answers to all my children’s questions. It’s a big trap.
I highly recommend this book, if you are looking for a simple guide to put your thoughts about God into words that are easy to understand for your children.