I am a bit of a history buff and a patriotic Australian so I enjoy being able to not only reflect, but to learn a little more each year about our country’s military service. And yes I will tear up at the singing of the National Anthem on Grand final day and not just because I am anticipating witnessing another flag!
Anzac Day is a day that fills me with pride and a pride I will endeavor to instill in my kids. I want them to know how lucky they are to live in a country that offers us opportunity, freedom and choice. I also want them to know about the sacrifices that were made by those of years gone by and those sacrifices being made by our men and women soldiers and their families today.
But what about our children? How much do they need to know about war, particularly those wars that are happening right now? How do we make sure that the information they receive is relevant, accurate and appropriate for their age and intellectual and emotional development?
These days we have constant access to media and an overload of information. For parents, this can mean a difficulty in protecting our kids from imagery that may be shocking and disturbing.
For particularly young kids, say those around 7 and under, we need to be more discreet in terms of the imagery and content to which they are exposed.
Kids of this age tend to bring any perceived threat of danger close to home. They have little concept of time and distance, and thus if they are showing concerns about events they see, we need to reassure them of the safety of their immediate surroundings. For these kids, our role as a parent should be to act as a buffer to determine the information that is relevant and age appropriate for them to handle.
School age children begin to ask a lot more questions. When answering the older child’s questions on war, here are some factors that may be helpful to consider…
- Continue to encourage your child’s curiosity in the world around them. We want them to ask questions, form opinions, show empathy and perceive some sense of understanding.
- Whilst responses to our child’s questioning should be dependent on their age and development we should also consider our own understanding of the information to which they have already been exposed. We should try to be aware and to listen to the beliefs they have already formed.
- Boys particularly, at this age often develop a fascination with war, weapons and strategy. One only needs to witness some of the games our kids are wanting to play on the xbox and computer to recognize this fascination. As parents we need to reinforce the seriousness of war and the scale of suffering that has been experienced by many but in a way that is appropriate for their level of understanding. There is a definite element of ‘glorifying’ some aspects of war by such games and the media in general. We should be careful that our kids do not end up becoming desensitized to the violence.
- Our own moral beliefs and opinions will obviously play a role in how we answer our kids questions. We can explain the opposing beliefs and ask our kids for their opinions as well.
- Bringing up discussions about wars can also be a good opportunity to talk about stereotyping and how the race, religion, ethnicity or culture of someone does not define them. Similiarities to a perceived enemy does not an enemy make.
- Whilst the background politics to many wars may be complex and beyond the comprehension of most children, we can continue to enforce the notion that the voice and the pen are far mightier than the sword and that violence is never a desired option.
Have your children asked many questions about wars both past and present? Do you have much discussion about war, particularly around memorial dates such as ANZAC Day?
And for a great poem “How Amiens was Saved”, check out Clairey Hewitts post That’s why I’ve penned these verses, the simple facts to tell
You can also head over to My Little Bookcase to have a look at some reviews of children’s books about war in the post Stories for Anzac Day