Teaching Children about Mortal Sin - how?


I’m not quite sure what forum to post this in - I didn’t see one that really aligned well to “catechesis” (sorry if I missed it!).

Can anyone point me to a good commentary/explanation on how to explain mortal sin to 10-11 year olds? Aside from the 3 requirements of a mortal sin, I’m looking for examples of mortal sins, what sins could a 10-11 year old commit that would be mortal (a frequent question), etc. that I can share with a teacher who is struggling in this area. This teacher is telling her children that she can’t think of a sin a child their age could commit that would be mortal, and for adults it all depends on the situation - there are no clear-cut mortal sins.


Just explain to the children that a mortal sin is something seriously wrong, done on purpose, with full knowledge that it was wrong.

10-11 year olds can do things that are seriously wrong - they can be disrespectful towards parents and authority figures; they can steal valuable things from others; they can spread gossip; they can damage property; and they can be bullies.


Sure, do you own a catechism? If you don’t there’s an online version with a good search engine at: scborromeo.org/ccc.htm
I wouldn’t just teach about mortal sin however, give your child a full education on sin, beginning with original sin. Read the material to be sure you understand prior to teaching them, ask a priest if you have questions.
There is also the compendium to the catechism:
The compendium has questions asked and answers, it might get you started.


I can see the questions coming…“you mean if I’m disrespectful towards my parents it’s a mortal sin - and if I don’t ask God to forgive me and I happen to die in an accident I will go to hell?” How does a teacher answer that?


Just explain to them that God knows our hearts and knows that we are sorry (if we are) but that they still need to go to Confession, and they need to resolve not to behave that way any more.

In any case, it most likely won’t occur to them that they could die and go to Hell. What they want to know is, “What do I need to confess so that I can go to Holy Communion?” It does not normally occur to children of that age that they could ever die.


You need three things: the Baltimore Catechism, loving parental guidance and a wise confessor.

The BC is directed to children and is very clear on the nature of sin and the necessity of the Sacrament of Confession. Read it with your child (don’t just make them read it) so that you can flesh out the explantions and answer questions. That will give them the solid building blocks. Don’t rely on this, however as the child may either find it too abstract or develop scruples.

Find a wise confessor who will hear the child’s confession and give them some guidance in developing perspective (make sure you have this in place before you teach them about sin and the need for Confession). The child may start out confessing every little thing, but he will learn by experience through gentle guidance what is and is not a mortal sin.


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