15 November 2018

Talking to Children About Remembrance Day

Poppy, Photo by Rebecca Malone on Unsplash

Talking to young children about Remembrance Day may be difficult. Here are some tips to get the conversation started.

On November 11th, many Canadians will be attending military parades, observing two minutes of silence at 11:00 a.m., and remembering those who laid down their lives for our freedoms.

Remembrance Day is a very important holiday in Canada, and young children may ask questions about the traditions involved.

Remembrance Day commemorates those who died in the first World War, as well as the ending of that war at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year 1918. In recent years, it has also come to represent the sacrifices of veterans from more recent conflicts. Secondary to the remembrance of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice is the honouring of our veterans on Remembrance Day. Although officially the holiday commemorates the war dead, veterans are also held in honour on this day.

When young children ask questions about this holiday, it may be a difficult conversation. Some young children may not understand why we wear poppies, or why there are long military parades, or why wreaths are laid. Here are some ways to start the conversation.

1. Consider your child’s understanding of death.

Depending on how you have spoken to your child about death, different approaches will be needed to address Remembrance Day. If you have been discussing death with your child from an early age, it will be easier to explain that we are honouring the dead. Use the same language that you have used in the past to explain why we commemorate those who are no longer with us.

2. Consider your child’s understanding of conflict and war

If your child understands conflict, it may suffice it to use wording about conflicts and fighting, explaining that sometimes, when large groups of people can’t understand or work with one another, there is a large fight called a war. And people die when there is a war. Many people died because they were trying to make sure people were safe.

3. Explain the significance of the symbols in age-appropriate ways.

Explaining that we wear poppies because where soldiers died, these flowers grew may satisfy your child’s curiosity. Explain that we lay wreaths because they are a way of remembering those who helped keep us safe. Finally, we can explain that when we want to show that we are thankful for those who keep us safe, we use silence to show that we understand they did something very difficult, and we want to show our thanks.

4. Use books to help start the conversation

When conversations are difficult, books often help. Please see this article for two excellent Remembrance Day books for children.

The wording you use to explain Remembrance Day to young children will largely depend on their understanding of life and death, of conflict and war. As the parent, you are the best judge of how much your child can understand. Discussing death as a part of life and having age-appropriate conversations about grief from the time your children are young is helpful. These conversations will help children understand these concepts on Remembrance Day—and any day of the year.

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Mariana Abeid-McDougall is a multi-niche writer, editor, and mom of three in an out-of-the-box, adventurous family. She's currently travelling through the US & Canada while homeschooling her three young children. Learn more about family adventure travel, growing a career as a multi-niche writer, and more at www.marianamcdougall.com.

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