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Should we let the sadness of a century ago touch our children? I think so. ANZAC Day can add something strong to your children. Children will learn about the history behind ANZAC Day at school but parents can teach the significance and appropriate emotional response. It is wonderful that our children can pass their days in blithe ignorance of so much that is bitter and sad in life but, at some stage, everyone has to learn how to appropriately deal with the sombre and serious things. How do they learn this? Attending an ANZAC commemoration, or even watching one together on television, is a good way.
The main way you learn is not from talking but from empathy – sensing what the people around you are feeling. So point to all the people around you or on TV at the ANZAC service, “See how serious and sad they look? You will see that dad and I are quiet and serious during the ANZAC parade, too. The people around us are quiet because they are thinking about sad and important things.”
Kids get to cope with complicated stuff when they know ‘the rules’. “It is great to play and run about, and you can do that later, but not now. See how the soldiers are standing still? We have to stand still and quiet like the soldiers. When they move off, we can move again.”
Children cannot understand about thousands of lives but they can understand stories about one or two. If you can tell them the story of a relative or someone you know of, that can personalise it. “ANZAC Day is a way of remembering what they did and saying thank you to them for being so brave.” Again, the rows and rows of names on monuments will mean nothing but if you bring one name alive it will all make sense. Pick a name and get your child wondering about who he was what he was like. “He would have been young – younger than dad. I wonder what he did before he went to the war? I wonder what his family was like? I don’t know who that young man was, but it is so sad he never came home. On this day we think about all those men and women like him.”
ANZAC Day can have lots of extra meanings. One day your kids will understand them too, but one thing that I hope they get is that ANZAC Day is a way of being thankful for the peace we live in. War may seem exciting and glamorous in movies but the sadness of ANZAC Day will give them a glimpse that war is actually terrible when it touches real lives. Tell you your kids how much you appreciate peace and that none of the nations we have fought in the past are our enemies now. Isn’t it wonderful that your children now possibly play with children from all those nations at school?