anzac

Remembering ANZAC’s and talking to our kids about war

This week in Australia and in many places around the world, we stop to commemorate ANZAC day and the history of sacrifice for which it stands.

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

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This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Being an Army family, we have to be very careful of the messages we send our daughters (1 and 3).

    I don’t want them thinking every time Mr Accident goes away he won’t be coming home. Also, as a parent, I don’t want to instil a sense of rascism by talking about fighting people from other countries, whether they be Afghans, German or Japanese. And finally, the last thing I want to do is romanticize war. War is hell. It is scary and painful and bloody hard.

    Besides the everyday contact the girls get (we live on a base) I take them to the war memorial a couple of times a year for a history lesson, and we also read, in the lead up to ANZAC Day, “Why are they marching, daddy?” it’s a book by the ANZAC commemoration committee of Queensland. And it really focusses on the facts, clearly explained for about ages 3 and up, without all the death and glory.

    1. Thanks for your comment. You certainly are living with the realities of war and the military far more closely than many of our children, but it sounds like you are doing a wonderful job of keeping the information appropriate for their ages. And absolutely there is nothing to be glorified about war. I love the idea of that book too, it sounds like a great resource.

  2. A wonderful and informative article. My mum is bit of a war buff and she likes to tell stories to the kids about war and the holocaust…but from her point of view…..I wish she wouldn’t because I don’t think they are ready for that level of detail yet. I have told her as much but she doesn’t listen to me….I’ll have to get her to read this article somehow!

    1. Thanks Nicole, it can be difficult for older generations as they want this information passed on, which it definitely should be, it just needs to be done in a way that is appropriate for the individual child. We definitely need to hear these stories so maybe your mum could write or record some of her memories or stories she was told so that the kids will have them to read or listen to later when they are better prepared to process the details.

  3. Great common sense approach to this tricky subject. I hope you don’t mind but I’ll share this with our readers.

    1. Thanks, and absolutely, share away!

  4. My kids tend to think more advanced and they ask more questions about adult stuff. And there comes a time that I no longer know what to answer. Thanks for this post. I think this will really help!

    1. Thanks Danica. If a childs questions are more advanced they may therefore be ready for more advanced answers, but sometimes the answers are certainly not clear cut. Sometimes looking up some school resource websites can help as they give kids the information but allow for them to form their own opinions and look at things objectively.

  5. Great post with some wonderful tips in it. It is such a delicate subject but such an important one as well.

    Fairy wishes and butterfly kisses from #teamIBOT

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