“Soldiers are men and women who protect people living here in Canada and other people in the world too. Sometimes they get hurt or even die when they’re trying to protect people, so we have a special day to make sure we remember them and thank them for what they do for us.”
Talking about heavy subjects with our kids can be intimidating. Topics like war, and soldiers, and death can seem too big and too scary, but talking about these honestly in an age-appropriate way is healthy and builds a foundation for positive parent-child communication.
When you’re talking about the meaning of Remembrance Day to your child, gauge how they’re feeling and what they’re ready for. You’re the best judge of how your child will react, but kids often understand more than we give them credit for. Explain as much as you think your child can handle. It’s okay if they don’t understand everything you say; every year they’ll comprehend more.
Here are 5 simple ideas to start the conversation.
1. Introduce Your Child to a Veteran
If you know a veteran and they’re willing, introduce them to your child. Plan a lunch date or invite them over for a family dinner. Putting a face and name to the concept of “soldier” or “veteran” can help your child make a more personal connection.
2. Send a Postcard
If a visit isn’t an option, encourage your child to draw a picture or send a personalized postcard to a veteran or Canadian Armed Forces member to thank them for their service. Find out how to send a Postcard for Peace here.
3. Honour Veterans
Let your child see what you do to honour veterans. Bring your child with you on a visit to your local cenotaph, attend a veterans parade, or participate in a Remembrance Day ceremony. But if your child is too young to sit quietly without disrupting others, it’s best to wait another year.
4. Wear a Poppy
Wear a poppy to show your support and encourage your child to wear one too. You can either use a sticker or swap out the usual straight pin with a safety pin to make it safer for young children. Explain that we wear poppies to remember those who have given their lives in battle, as commemorated in the famous World War One poem “In Flanders Fields” (written below).
5. Make a Wreath Together
Make a Remembrance Day wreath with your child. Sometimes working together on a project creates a more relaxed space to talk and ask questions. As you work on this wreath, curious children may also appreciate hearing or learning the words to the poem “In Flanders Fields” written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian physician, in 1915.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.