Explaining Vets to Children

two veterans smiling

There are certain days that kids come to learn to get excited for, because it's a day off from school or maybe indicates a weekend that the whole family gets to go on a vacation or a family outing. However, explaining vets to children can give them a whole new meaning behind Veterans Day and the sacrifices that come with this national holiday. It's about so much more than a day off, and it's important to teach your kids the respect and honor behind such an impactful day.

Veterans have played an impossibly large role in our lives, and still do to this day, and it's important that we respect and honor the sacrifices that they have made each day in their lives. It's important that our kids understand that as well, and can look at Veteran's Day as more than just a day off in between Halloween and Thanksgiving. Luckily, explaining vets to children can be simple, though it is an important topic that needs to be taken seriously.

There is no right age to begin explaining vets to children, it's really a matter of when you feel your child can understand what you're going to tell them, and how important this day truly is.

Begin with defining what a veteran is. For many children, they understand that people are in the military, you may even have some veterans in the family, but they may not fully understand the roles and responsibility that the family member had or has, or how it impacts their everyday life. If you have pictures of your family member in uniform, this can be a wonderful way to help keep your child's attention and share a bit of family history. Discuss and ask questions with your child to bring them into the topic and see what their thoughts are on veterans, explain to them how veterans don't get holidays the same way we do, briefly touch on some of the sacrifices they may make for our country.

Next, discuss the actual day honoring them. Even adults can get confused about the true meaning behind Veteran's Day, so be sure to stress that this is a day to honor those who have served in any war, those who have passed, and those who are still around. A veteran simply is someone who served in our military to protect us and our freedoms, and this day is to honor them. This day was originally Armistice Day, which was the unofficial end of World War I, a very important day in history. It was declared a legal federal holiday in 1938, and was originally dedicated to the cause of world peace. However, it was more than just that and was dedicated to those who sacrificed to help us reach that day of peace. In 1954, the name was changed in an effort to honor all Veterans, not just the ones involved in World War I.

For many, there comes a point where Veterans Day and Memorial Day are confused, and it's important to clarify to your children the differences. Memorial Day is to honor and remember military personnel who died in the service of their country. This day is about more than just barbecues as well, but it's not to honor all those who served, just those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and never came back. Veterans Day on the other hand, is to honor all of those who served, whether that is in times of war or peace. Their sacrifices were different than those honored on Memorial Day, but that doesn't lessen the fact that they sacrificed quite a bit for their country. This is a great way to recognize those vets for all that they did, and to celebrate that they served and came back. However, that's not to say that veterans who have passed are not honored on this day, they are, but it's especially important to thank those that are still around for all they have given up.

To allow your child to better understand the sacrifices these soldiers made, list out some of them. For many families, there was an empty seat at Christmas, at birthdays, and even at births. It can be slightly overwhelming for children to think of someone missing out on a Christmas celebration or not being there for the birth of a child, so make sure your child can handle the reality of the sacrifices or think of a way to share it with them that is a bit lighter. While these soldiers came back, many came back injured, and we still have veterans coming back with physical and mental injuries, and it's important to recognize all that they have given up so that we may continue to have the freedoms we have.

Finally, take your child or children to a veterans center. Let them interact with some who served, or have them volunteer with you. This is a wonderful way to help raise awareness, while allowing them the opportunity to speak to vets. Let them know that it is acceptable and encouraged to say thank you to those who served, and how to potentially recognize a vet while out and about. A little gratitude is never a bad thing, and sharing your gratitude by way of raising money to donate to your local group or saying thank you to your local vets is a wonderful way to explain the importance of this day.