One of the most basic questions every human being needs answered is "Who am I?" We wonder where we came from, why we are here and whether there is a purpose to our lives. How we help our children wrestle with these issues will shape their identity for a lifetime. It is vital to help them develop a biblical perspective of themselves — and all human life.
The Scriptures tell us that humans are made "in the image of God" (Genesis 1:27). Because we are made in His likeness, we have a tremendous capacity to participate in God's ongoing work of creation by imagining, inventing, building, farming and a million other creative expressions. Best of all, He invites us to marry and receive the gift of children also formed in God's image.
The bad news? Every one of us is now less than we were made to be — like a beautiful masterpiece that has been marred. We inherited a disease called sin from our first ancestor (Genesis 3; Romans 5), causing us to devalue ourselves through wrong choices and devalue others through selfish attitudes. Many go so far as to claim human beings have no unique value — are no more sacred than a frog or a tree. This is a lie. All people retain a dignity that is rooted in God's imprint on their lives (Psalm 8:4-5).
Human dignity is inherent rather than earned. Children should be taught to treat all people with respect — regardless of age, color, beliefs, personality, health, wealth, intelligence, beauty. While people can earn our respect based on their deeds, they are entitled to our respect based on their divine likeness.
Below, you will find age-appropriate activities and other tools for presenting this truth to your children. No matter their age or stage, you can help them embrace their God-given identity and the sanctity of all human life.
Take your preschoolers outside and help them understand that life is sacred. Using a bottle of bubble solution, blow bubbles into the air while encouraging your children to clap them, pinch them or catch them in their hands. Ask how the bubbles feel against their skin. Ask what is inside the bubbles. Air? No, breath. Let them take a turn blowing the bubbles.
Now share this truth: Just as we can fill a bubble with our breath, that's how God filled man with His breath when He created us. Since it is easy for a bubble to pop or burst, it must be treated with care. In the same way, human life is fragile and must be protected because it is so valuable. Of all He created, God only shared His breath with humans, which makes us His most special creation.
Finally, blow more bubbles together and talk about the differences in their sizes. Think about the people in your family and discuss each person's uniqueness. Explain that though we are all different, we are similar in this: We have been made in God's image.
Help a young school-age child understand that life is a gift from God by using gift tags that say "To:" and "From:" (Or make your own using small strips of paper.)
Take these tags with you as your child looks around your home and names his favorite possessions. Ask, "Whom does this belong to?" and "Where did we get it?" Recognize each item's ownership by filling out gift tags accordingly and attaching them.
Turn the discussion to your child. Fill out a tag to read "To: You" and "From: God" and attach it to your child. Explain, "We can give each other things, but only God gives life." Have your child feel his own heartbeat and see if he can catch the rise and fall of his chest as he breathes. Explain that his very breath is a gift from God. And remind him that since he is made in God's image, his life is very special. With your child, say a prayer thanking God for the gift of life He has given.
—Susan Martins Miller
Mealtime Moment for Tweens
Discuss these concepts with your children:
How do you know if something is alive?
Where does life come from?
What is the difference between human and animal life?
(God made us in His likeness. We're set apart to be like Him.)
If human life comes from God and belongs to God, how should you treat . . .
... your siblings?
... your grandparents?
... a classmate with special needs?
... your teachers?
... someone who teases you?
... a homeless person?
If you sense your tween is engaged in the conversation and ready to go deeper, consider including him or her in the teen discussion as well.
—Susan Martins Miller
Talking With Your Teens
"Who am I?" is a question that culture answers for your teens daily through media messages, sports stars and peers. These influences shape your kids' self-worth by measuring their beauty, talent and wealth against a cultural standard. Do your teens believe human dignity is inherent or earned, or are they struggling with the concept of respect — for themselves as well as for others? Discuss the inherent worth and the sacredness of their lives with them:
- What does sacred mean?
- What gives your life value?(Read Genesis 1:27 together. Have your teens answer that question again.)
- If all human life is sacred and worthy of respect, how does that influence the way you treat kids who may not be "cool"?
- Why is everyone entitled to respect? (Read Psalm 139:1-18 together. Have your teens answer that question again.)
How is God's design the primary factor in determining each person's worthiness?
How does respect affect family relationships?
What part should it play when we disagree?
- How can I better model respect in our relationship?
What do I do that affirms your value?
Tell your teens they have inherent dignity and worth both to God and to you.
End the discussion by praying together. Ask God to guide your teens' decisions and friendships.