Specifically, I think it's important to help children learn how to deal with death. Death is a very confusing thing to a child... heck, it's confusing to most adults as well.
I was 46 years old when my 1st born... was born. Unlike most kids I knew mine were much more likely to be attending funerals then weddings. After all, both my parents had already died even before Tina and Timmothy were even born.
The first death my children had to deal with was our beloved Jack. Jack was a Yellow Lab cross that I got a couple of months before Tina was born.
When I got Jack it was for two reasons. 1) Every child should have a dog. 2) I assumed Jack would live 10 to 18 years and I knew a strong bond would be formed between them. With that in mind I had hoped they would be old enough to get a grip on the concept of death and the importance of celebrating a life past when he would die. I know the first death that I dealt with was a parakeet and my folks did a really poor job of making that an example of it for me... in fact it really wasn't mentioned aside from Tweetie died.
Recently we had the passing of a second guinea pig, Hershey. Hershey was Timmothy's guinea pig and for sure it was hard on him but by now it was a fact of life... pets die. I have some books on pastoral ministry and I found some information on holding a funeral as well as some sample services.
I put Timmothy in charge of holding the funeral and gave him the information I had on hand. He did a great job and I believe it helped his grief greatly.
I don't think there is a time to early to start educating children about death. Death is real and it happens to all living things. To me the best way to deal with it is to teach children to celebrate life. I believe in teaching them as to why all life is important and precious.
I want you to know what inspired this post. This week we laid a church family member to rest. Jen was just 34 years old. She was not sickly, she was modeling material at 5'10 & 135lbs. and had the face of a angel as well. Jen died of cancer just three months after being diagnosed with it.
Jen's funeral was a celebration of her faith. Everyone knew that Jen was a strong believer in Christ, His resurrection, and her own resurrection through her faith in her savior, Jesus Christ. Jens faith has strengthen my own. For that reason alone I am so glad that I got to celebrate Jens' life. See you on the other side Jen.