Be honest with your kids. Make sure they understand that you are doing your best to tell them the truth.
I've got 20, 17, and 10 year olds whom I've raised telling them there is no such thing as Santa Claus. At the same time I have raised them in church while considering myself a Christian. Now I have to let them know that I was wrong, I don't consider myself to be a Christian anymore and many of the things they've learned in church were wrong.
Fortunately, this still allows me to consider that I've always been honest with them. As best I could, I've told them the truth as I understood it. And they respect me for it.
Talk to your kids, constantly. Tell them that they might have to pretend to not understand things when they're with other adults, as a matter of courtesy, but as far as you're concerned, you will always be honest with them and you'll tell them everything you've learned.
To do anything less is negligent parenting.
I think most people start to talk about where "fluffy goes when he dies" before the kids even ask. When I was growing up in a christian home my dad told me that pets didn't have souls and so they didn't go anywhere. They just died. I remeber it bothered me for a short time and then I got over it.
For my kids I asked them what they thought and then asked them why they believed it. Then I told them that no one had died and come back to tell us what had happened. - This really upset my baptist wife though.
I don't want them to be atheist's because I told them it was right. I want them to come to the conclusions on their own. I simply try to guide their thinking toward the logical conclusion.
I remember hearing those same words when I was 6. My brother and I had done something "bad" and spanking us was not going to cover it. For some reason my older brother, 19, and sisters boyfriend, 22, came up with a new form of punishment. Shot gun in hand, and my dog Bear on a leash. They took us to a back area on our property where they had dug a giant hole.
Once there they went over their master plan. They told us that they were going to shoot my dog and if we covered our eye or looked away then they wouldn't make it quick. That said, the boyfriend shot him twice. Luckily, just before he fired the first shot I raised my arm to block my little brothers view. He was my responsibility and I couldn't let him see that. Just as the dog was my responsibility, I remember thinking I can't fail at both.
In the end they tossed him into the hole and made us bury him. As my sisters boyfriend handed me the shovel he said "Don't think he will go to heaven, animals don't have souls, and God doesn't watch over those who don't deserve it."
Sorry, I probably shouldn't talk about my past. I don't exactly have any good or positive examples of anything to share... I'm like that parade ruin-er that always pops up. That's why I typically never say anything.
Wow, thats horrible.
No need to apologize. Past experiences for good are bad are an important part of us.
Oh my fucking God.
Sometimes - Like Hitchens - I wished there was a Hell ...
I do not & cannot have kids (this is deliberate I don't want to add to overpopulation issues) however I would explain the science behind the death of the animal as best I could. I would explain the lifecycle of any living thing.
There is no point in making stuff up. Tell them the truth in a carefully worded sympathetic manner.
I have two children. One is eight and the other four. They both understand already that death is what you have when there is no life. My wife and I have been honest with them from day one. We have not perpetuated ideas of Santa Claus or an afterlife but we also don't try and interfere with their imaginations. My four year old has already reasoned on her own that Santa is no more real than the cartoon characters on tv. My son even tried to help pad her imagination by advocating for Santa to which she vehemently argued her position as best a four year old can.
The thing that makes me curious is why would a child formulate such a question as "where does fluffy go" if they have not already been influenced into belief in some version of an afterlife. My children have asked a number of difficult questions but rarely have those questions hinted at such concepts. I understand that children are influenced in how they understand the world by a number of sources other than parents. We have made it a point to explain these various opinions held by others to them on a level they can understand. They know that their cousins believe in Jesus and heaven and hell. We have even gone so far as to let my mother and sister take them to functions at church for the fun of it.
They don't disrespect other people for believing differently but at the same time we teach them to stand up for themselves and not be bullied by majority opinion as much as possible. I suppose my question is this: Do you think that the belief that someone or something alive "goes somewhere" after death follows naturally from "human nature" or do you think that the idea is the product of influences in a child's environment? I hope my question is not too far off topic.