Veterans Day can be a tricky one to explain to the kiddos: their natural curiosity can lead to questions you may not be prepared to answer or questions for which the answers might seem frightening. (What is war? Will we go to war?) So we’ve come up with a few tips for explaining Veterans Day to your kiddos.
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For families with an active or retired military member, Veterans Day can take on a very significant meaning. But not everyone knows what it really represents or how to explain it to children. Unlike Memorial Day, which honors military who died in service (click here to read more about the story of Memorial Day), Veterans Day honors those who have served in war (and are therefore veterans of the war). Many, many veterans are alive and well today and deserve their special day!
Start with the Basics
Veterans Day is November 11th, every year. (It is often observed as a legal holiday the nearest Monday to this date.)
Can you write the number 11? What about the word November?
If it’s always on the 11th, does it fall on the same day of the week every year?
What day does it fall on this year? (Hint: it’s Friday)
A veteran is someone who served in the military.
Have you heard of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard? This is the military. The military is part of our government and is made up of people who have agreed to join the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard, in order to become part of this branch of the government. They are trained for many situations, including emergencies at home. Their goal is to protect people who live in their country (and elsewhere).
Do you know the difference between these different branches and what special skills or equipment they use? (As in airplanes, naval ships, etc.),
Draw a picture that might represent what the different branches of the military specialize in.
A veteran is someone who served in the military during war.
The military is trained to fight in wars. Have you heard of war? What do you think it means?
Before you launch into the explanation of war, you can let kiddos know that for most countries, and especially in more recent times, world leaders negotiate before declaring war.
Know Your Kids
If your children are sensitive or very young, getting into details about war should be handled accordingly. While we aim to tell our children the truth, there’s no need to keep them up at night in fear. Focus your discussion on the veterans who have served in war and why it is important that we honor them on this day. Here are a few reasons:
You probably know one. Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Grandma, aunts and uncles, neighbors: chances are there’s a veteran in your life. Got a photo of the vet? Show your kids. Putting a face on the concept will help kiddos connect with it.
Regardless of how you feel about war or specific wars, the fact remains that the men and women who have served during war times did so with honor and bravery. Talk about being brave. What does it mean? Why is it important?
Showing gratitude. This is an excellent chance to show kiddos how to honor their country’s history, elders and be kind. For great ideas on how to thank a veteran, check out this story.