How do you explain and commemorate ANZAC Day with your family? Here’s how to approach this at times difficult subject.
ANZAC Day for kids
The annual commemoration of ANZAC Day on the 25th April, has become an entrenched part of our cultural identity. Attending the Dawn Service, honouring the fallen at marches and taking time to reflect on their incredible sacrifice are vital cornerstones of what it is to be Australian.
With kids, however, comes questions. As much as we want to tell our children the truth so they can be informed and active citizens, sometimes it’s a hard pill to swallow. How do you explain to children that we’re celebrating both death and life at the same time? How do you answer a question like, “Why do people fight in wars?”. These questions are tough and can catch you by surprise however the following will help you to gently explain ANZAC Day for kids in a way they can understand.
A school focus on ANZAC Day
Primary schools and high schools commemorate ANZAC Day within an educational context. You would expect to hear the last post played, a service read out over the PA or in an assembly, classroom discussions and activities based around ANZACs. For the most part, however, this work will be quite surface level and will be presented in addition to whatever else is being studied at the time. It’s safe to say that some children may not know or understand the purpose and the sadness behind what’s being discussed.
Age appropriate ANZAC Day discussions for kids
You’re going to have to make a call about what your children are developmentally capable of. The language that you use, as well, will become of high importance. It’s tricky for kids to understand “We celebrate that they went overseas to fight for us” if you’ve always said, “No fighting!” as a house rule.
Where appropriate, look for already-prepared resources. These can help guide your discussion. Some hands on activities like art and baking can be kinaesthetic learning processes that younger children, in particular, will be able to connect meaning to. ANZAC Day for kids can become more of a longer learning discussion than just a single day on the calendar.
SEE ALSO: Easy ANZAC biscuits recipe.
Should we go to the ANZAC Day dawn service with kids?
I’m going to go out on a limb and explain my position on this using my own child. My son is not capable of attending a dawn service. At time of writing he is three and a half – and he is absolutely everything that that entails. He cannot sit or stand still. He does not have an inside voice. He is gorgeously inquisitive and playful – it’s always ‘dinner and a show’ when we’re out in public and he attracts a lot of attention.
I will not be taking my child to a dawn service until he is older. I feel that the solemnity of the event is not a match to his current behavioural capacity and, as an individual making a choice, it’s not something I’m comfortable doing. He would not be able to keep quiet during the times of silence and I would have to make noise to keep him under control. I would never and have never judged another parent of a similar child who wants to take them along. I can definitely see an argument ‘for’ taking that youthful exuberance to add life to a celebration. It’s just not what I want to do.
Dawn services begin incredibly early – 3:30am in some cases. You’re looking at a huge adjustment to your family’s schedule for the day preceding and following the event. Access to toilets, food and warmth are all things to consider. It’s certainly possible and many brave parents have gone down this path before. If this is something that you think will benefit your family, then this ANZAC Day can be about attending this kind of event with your kids.
ANZAC Day for kids – reading and learning
As we’re all well aware, reading with children is not only a great bonding experience but the key way we can promote literacy. At times, broaching difficult subjects can seem a task too far. Choosing carefully selected texts and picture books to read and then discuss with children can make this process more straight forward and might provide some structure to help you frame a difficult conversation. There are books about ANZAC Day for kids that discuss sacrifice, honour, love, respect and freedom. With many aimed at different age levels and abilities, you’ll find something for your kids regardless of their age. This might prompt interest in a topic you’d like to follow up or another activity you’d like to do – like researching or a visit to a war memorial.
ANZAC Day is an opportunity for kids to remember
Regardless of whether or not your family has a personal historical connection to the ANZAC legend, this is an important time for all Australians. It’s a time to come together to remember, to reflect and to resolve to make measured, peaceful decisions and leave the world a better place than how we found it.
ANZAC Day for kids doesn’t have to be a time to discuss war or its impacts. Your family could instead decide to spend the day together, enjoying what our beautiful city has to offer in the great outdoors. You could eat delicious food, have fun and play games or explore any number of our wonderful parks and gardens. You could wander through the streets near your house and take in all the multiculturalism and different identities you can see around you. You can enjoy each other’s company and make the most of your time together.
That’s what the ANZACs would have wanted.