Remembrance Day is coming up next weekend, and with this year marking one hundred years since the end of the First World War, there are lots of commemorative events planned across the globe. Many towns and cities will have large displays of poppies which can be beautiful to look at - but how do we explain to our children why they are there?
Remembrance Day can be a hard topic to discuss with children, and as with most difficult things, it’s better to talk about it at home rather than wait for the subject to come up in school. The subject can stir up feelings and issues in both adults and children that can be hard to deal with and it can often be easier for children to cope with this at home with loved ones than in a classroom where they may worry about expressing their feelings.
Here are some tips to help with explaining Remembrance Day to children:
Try to relate the facts clearly and compassionately: it is one hundred years since a big war where many people died, and we wear a poppy to commemorate this. On Remembrance day we think about all of the people who have joined the armed forces to defend their country and other people who have needed help.
Make it clear that we wear poppies and hold parades and other events on Armistice Day to show our respect for people who have served their country - and not to glorify war or aggression or pride in our country.
Talk about how the poppy is used as a symbol of hope and peace, fragility and strength. Be sure to point out there is no religious or political affiliation, and that the money we donate for poppies goes to the British Legion.
With older children, you could share some war poetry and talk about the images portrayed
For younger children, CBeebies created a beautiful animation a few years ago which explains things in very simple imagery for young viewers.
There is always useful information on the British Legion website.
Try to be age appropriate with what you explain to children. You know your children best, so you can gauge what will be too much for them to cope with.
Ask them about what they’ve learned about this in school, and whether there’s anything they would like to ask.
It can be useful to explain the significance of the 2 minutes’ silence we observe on Armistice Day. For smaller children it could be worth talking about this several times in the days leading up to Remembrance Day so that they are prepared for what is coming.
If you have family members who have been in the armed forces it can be helpful for children to link them to this - it makes it more relatable to understand that they are standing still and silent out of respect for "uncle Jimmy and people like him” or "for Great Granddad who was a soldier in the war”