Answering children's questions about death

Some children ask searching questions about death,in particular about what happens when you die.

As always, it is important to answer honestly and as simply as possible. In a single-faith school the answer might well focus on the teaching of the particular religious tradition. Teachers in secular schools might tell children what they themselves believe, or explain that whilst some people believe that there is a different existence after death, others regard death as final, and we cannot be certain what lies beyond. Teachers might invite pupils from different faith traditions to share with the class what their own religion teaches. Again a teacher who knows the class well might invite pupils to talk about their own ideas.

Teachers may well wish to stress the importance of living this life well, and of the way in which people live on in what they have achieved or in their descendants.

Children may ask whether people come back as ghosts. Answers to this type of question depend on a lot of factors such as age, recent experience (has a relative died?), and relationship to the child and its family. Generally, however, providing the child was old enough to follow this thinking, a teacher would point out that we sometimes see things with our minds that we don't see with our eyes, that not everybody sees the same things, and that it's pretty hard for us to know about something if we can't all share in the experience of it. It is worth affirming, however, that the small number of sightings of ghosts compared to the large number of people who have died doesn't lend strength to the reports of the sightings. Moreover, science has never been able to verify the existence of ghosts. With older children one could explore the connections with various ideas of life-after-death, including migration of souls and re-incarnation. Teachers would certainly look for ways to minimise the fear element often engendered by ghost stories.

An approach to questions about ghosts

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