Helping Kids Know Truth From Fantasy
Fables and legends are cornerstones of a rich and rewarding childhood, fueling make-believe play while introducing important life lessons. We were interested in how our Mom Mentors nurture their children’s imaginations and keep a firm footing on the truth of the Bible.
Q: How do you help your child understand the difference between the history of the Bible and the fantasy of fictional stories?
Kona Brown: We once went to a carnival as a family when both boys were 4 and 2 respectively. As it is at these things there were clowns and characters in attendance, the most memorable of which was a guy dressed up as the cuddly lion from a well-known snack brand. My eldest was terrified, whereas my youngest was happy to have his picture taken with the “Lion”. This event has consistently been an example we’ve used to explain to our kids the difference between real and make-believe, truth and imagination.
One of the ways we’ve made this practical for the boys has been to consistently explore the purpose behind a story/ fantasy/ TV program vs the purpose of God’s Word and the stories in it. Why was the man dressed up as a lion? To entertain the children! When we read “The BFG” or “The Famous 5” before bed, it serves the purpose of entertaining us, growing our vocabulary and firing our imagination. But when we read and refer to God’s Word, whether it be Old or New Testament, we do it to frame and contextualize our reality and to allow God’s truth and guidance to work its way into everyday life.
Chere Williams: What an interesting question especially in our current culture where there is so much doubt and question about the existence of God and the validity of the Bible. I’ve discussed with Anya that fiction is a story that’s created by a person that isn’t true, but the Bible is God breathed and inspired by Him. He used those who wrote the Bible as instruments to spread the gospel. I believe the most effective way we can help our children understand the difference between fantasy and the history of the Bible is to give them a foundation and knowledge of the Scriptures. I try to spend time reading the Bible to Anya and really digging in deeper since she’s getting older and has a different understanding.
Sometimes we’ll watch documentaries about the history of the Bible, and it’s interesting how often the narrator will try to disprove it or cast doubt. This has been a real teachable moment because it leads us into deeper conversations. I realized that Anya knew the Bible was the truth when she said, “It’s so sad how people will do anything to prove God doesn’t exist, all they have to do is read the Bible to know that’s not true.”
Jill Williams: Of course my kids are all different. For one, logic rules the day, for another imagination and another falls somewhere in between. So, their initial engagement with reality and fantasy differs from the get go. My awareness of where they engage is my starting point to helping them understand the critical difference between the history of the Bible and the stories of fantasy. Then, I like to think we dialogue, but sometimes it’s more of a soliloquy. Regardless, I ask questions, often, hopefully modeling for them to ask these questions for themselves.
I ask questions like, is this real? Is this true? Is this good? What does it mean for something to be real and something to be made up by man? How do we know the difference? How do we know that the stories in the Bible actually happened? I ask questions like these at home, in the car, wherever we may be when confusion may arise. I consider it my job to continue to put such questions in front of them so they will consider such things and be informed in their hearts and minds about the truth of scripture and likewise be discerning regarding stories of fantasy.
Susan Heim: Children learn from an early age that there’s a difference between “pretend” and “real life.” I have always explained to my kids that the Bible is the truth and recounts real events, but we don’t have all of the facts, so sometimes storytellers or moviemakers will add in their own details or guesses about what might have happened to round out a story. This makes for good entertainment—and movies and stories about Biblical events can be useful in getting people interested in learning more about religious history—but it’s also important to direct people to the Bible, the Word of God, to distinguish fantasy from history.
Julie Kieras: While I believe children are very capable of separating fact from fiction when it comes to fantasy versus reality, I think younger children may struggle between realistic fiction and historical truth. However, that’s true for any fiction versus history “story.” Part of teaching our children about God and the Bible is letting our kids know that the Bible is God’s Word and God always speaks the truth. So I believe my children know when we read a Bible “story” that although it’s told in a storytelling way, it really happened. I don’t stress about this—I grew up hearing Bible “stories” and never for a minute thought they weren’t true. And sometimes kids (mine and Sunday school students) will ask, “Did that really happen?” and that gives us an opportunity to explain the historical truth of the Bible and all the people and lives we meet within its pages!
Thank you, Mom Mentors! Learn more about them here and connect with their blogs. We would love to hear about your experiences, too! Do you have a question for them? Please post it below. And share your answer with us. See children’s books for growing up in God at grahamblanchard.com.