During November, we have two holidays we celebrate that remind us of the importance of gratitude and thanksgiving. Around Thanksgiving we often ask our children what they are grateful for or maybe even to actively do something to help those less fortunate. For some this could be serving a meal in a soup kitchen or buying a turkey dinner for a family.
The other holiday in November that often doesn’t get the same attention is Veterans Day. In the United States this is the day our country celebrates those who have served in the military. Always held on Nov. 11, it is a wonderful opportunity to teach our children that this day is about a lot more than just a day off of school. It is about sacrifice, honor, and gratitude. Here are some ideas to help teach your child the importance of this holiday and some creative ways to celebrate:
TEACH YOUR CHILDREN
Chances are we all have someone in our family, a friend, or a neighbor who has served in the military. For older children, a great way for them to learn and appreciate the significance of this holiday is to interview a veteran they know. This is a great family history project, or more formal interviews can be submitted to the Library of Congress through the Veteran’s History Project. For younger children, the subjects of war, bombs, and guns may be too much and could frighten them, so keep the focus on patriotism and the flag. Have them hang a flag in the yard or learn about how to properly hold and fold a flag. Make sure they know who in their family is a veteran and what that means.
Children of all ages love a parade. We have a great Veterans Day parade in San Francisco at Fisherman’s Wharf. In our family, this has been a tradition for many years. We attend with my father-in-law, who proudly wears his Air Force uniform. We have found it to be a memorable way to truly honor the significance of the day.
SAY THANK YOU TO VETERANS
We should be grateful to our veterans every day of the year, but Veterans Day serves as an excellent learning opportunity for our kids. This can be as simple as teaching them to say thank you to someone they see in uniform. This simple act will help teach them about small acts of kindness, the importance of service, and will no doubt bring a smile to someone’s face.
Another way kids can say thank you is by making a sign that they can bring to a parade or to just hang on a garage or a tree for the day. There are also more formal ways they can show their appreciation through organizations such as Operation Gratitude that sends letters and care packages to veterans, wounded veterans, and active service members. Kids can also make cookies and cards and bring them to our local VA hospital.
These are all small but profound ways to help teach children the importance of gratitude, especially during the month of November.
ENGAGE IN ACTS OF SERVICE
Another way to honor those who have served is through your own acts of service. It is important to show our children that although they may be too young to serve in our military, they are never too young to learn the importance of serving our country and serving others. They can do this by volunteering at a shelter for homeless veterans or at a food bank.
Serving can also be as simple as cleaning up trash in your neighborhood or at a local park. One idea a veterans’ organization gave me was to host a care package-packing party. We would ask people to bring donations of leftover Halloween candy, books, beef jerky, and magazines and put packages together with a note for those currently serving overseas. I can’t think of a better way to get rid of all that extra Halloween candy. It could also be donating toys or clothes to organizations that support military families.
For many years, this holiday was a welcome break between the craziness of Halloween and the rush of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. However, it wasn’t until we started attending the Veterans Parade every year, and I saw my father-in-law in his uniform, that I truly understood and have tried to instill in our children the difference between observing a holiday and honoring it. This year try to find even the smallest, simplest way to truly honor the holiday and all those that have and are currently serving our country.
Liz Farrell is the mother of three young children and the founder of TechTalks, a consulting group to help schools and families have productive and healthful conversations around social media and technology. Email: [email protected]