With all the activities in the school, media and society, it’s often surprising talking to young people about what they think of Remembrance day. Too many equate it with red poppies, the great World Wars and honoring dead soldiers. But it may not be entirely their fault. Perhaps we have not been as crystal clear as we should have been about what is the real meaning of this official holiday.
So here are in kid-speak, the 5 most important things kids MUST know about Remembrance Day:
1. Remembrance Day is often emotionally difficult on kids: Adults often forget and kids often don’t admit that it’s hard for kids to think of war. Children’s age, maturity and individual personality and temperament will influence their reactions, but it often makes them sad, angry, scared or all three at the same time. They often want to understand and find the stories confusing and complicated – who is bad and who is good, and why did the conflict have to happen in the first place. This is a good opportunity to discuss the dangers of generalizing and stereotyping, but also the impact even small gestures can have on what happens. Don’t get carried away with too much information, as kids can also be easily overwhelmed as they do not yet have the ability to keep things in perspective and may be unable to block out troubling thoughts. Let them know that you understand and that it’s OK to have strong emotions. Keep it simple and consider the other four most important points that follow.
2. It’s called “Remembrance Day”, because in times of prolonged peace it’s all too easy to forget how scary war is. There are too many examples of this in history, and as they say “those who don’t know history are bound to repeat it”. Many many families were touched by war but as our veterans get older and fewer, the memories of the wars become faded and arms length for most of us, young and old. It really is not the same to listen to a presentation on WWII or watch a movie – compared to hearing a real person give a first hand account of their own experience.
3. Remembrance Day is about people – in uniform as well as all who supported them – who served in times of war and peace. Canadians, over 1.5 million of them, have served our country in times of war, military conflict and peace. More than 120,000 men and women died so that we may live in peace and freedom today. They had friends and loved ones who were also affected by their service experience. And they need to be acknowledged too.
4. When we say “remember”, we mean “honor and thank”. It’s not just about recalling the events and the hardships. Remembrance day is about honoring and thanking those who chose to sacrifice their own personal comfort zone and do the right thing, often at a great personal cost including their life. And it’s not hard to do – “Thank you for serving” is as simple as it can be. You can show your thanks in many other ways – see Facebook app and 50 ideas on how to remember – from Veteran’s Affairs.
5. Remembrance Day is about the past AND the future: It’s remembrance for the men and women who have served, AND continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict and peace. It’s about the end of wars and the endurance of peace. It’s about something that matters everyday, not just once a year.
Alexandra T. Greenhill, MD, mom of three, CEO of myBestHelper – and grateful to all women and men who protect our peace and to their families.