Sunday, 8 November 2015

Remembrance Day and its importance for our children

As grown-ups, we all understand the importance and significance of Remembrance Day. It’s a chance to reflect on the enormous impact that war has had on our society and the sacrifices made by members of the armed forces in order to protect the status quo in their countries, for their own and future generations.

Marking the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month every year is a way of allowing us to collectively stop and take stock of how lucky we are today, and how we ought to be thankful to those who made those sacrifices on behalf of millions of others.

For our children today, though, the concept of war can seem a very strange one. Thankfully, they haven’t had to experience it. Even their grandparents are unlikely to have experienced the horrors of war first-hand. For that reason it’s difficult for them to understand the point and significance behind Remembrance Day, so we should help them to understand it.

In order to help your child grasp the sentiment behind Remembrance Day, it’s useful to have some key facts that you can share with them.

  • Explain that 11th November is Remembrance Day, the day we remember those members of the armed forces who lost their lives in World War One and other conflicts. Explain that 11th November was chosen as Remembrance Day as it was Armistice Day – the day that armies stopped fighting and World War One came to an end in 1918 at 11am on 11th November.

Tyne Cot Cemetery Panorama
Image by Jessica Keating Photography  - Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Belgium

  • Explain  why we wear poppies leading up to Remembrance DayThe red flowers are a way we can show other people that we are thinking about those people who died for their country; and the reason we wear a poppy is because these were the flowers that grew on the WWI battlefields after the war had ended.
  • Explain the purpose of the two minute silence at 11am on 11th November – a way of showing respect and thankfulness to the soldiers who fought and died so that we had a safe country to live in. 
  • Tell your child about a relative who played a part in World War I or World War II. By doing so, it makes it easier for a child to relate to the concept of war, even if they have never met the person. You might have some photographs that you can show them. 
  • Talk to your child about the fact that wars continue in some countries today, and remind them how lucky they are to live in a country without war.

Tower of London poppies
Image by DncnH - Poppies at the Tower of London in 2014

Remembrance Day activities

  • Make your own poppies. A craft activity allows the opportunity for a conversation about Remembrance Day. Why not make some cut-out poppies to display in your windows? Children will enjoy the creative activity and you can talk about the poppies’ significance as you craft together. 
  • Read a Remembrance Day poem. The most well-known poem for Remembrance Day is In Flanders Fields by Canadian army officer, John McCrae, which begins: “In Flanders Fields, the poppies blow; between the crosses; row on row.”  The background to the poem is incredibly poignant and is worth reading aboutThere are many other poems for Remembrance Day that you can find on the internet and read together with your children.
  • Take them to make a donation and buy a poppy that they can wear. Explain why it’s important to show that we are thinking about the sacrifices others made on behalf of future generations. 
  • Talk to your child about the importance of remaining calm and silent during the two minute silence – and explain how proud you’ll be of them if they stay quiet for the duration. If they’re really little, you might find it easier to watch a Remembrance Day ceremony or parade on TV than going in person.

Don’t expect too much from your children

While you may be ready to teach your children about the significance of Remembrance Day, don’t be disheartened or disappointed if they don’t seem to really understand what you’re telling them. War is a difficult concept to imagine, and they’ll gain an understanding little by little over the years as they grow up.