By Brittany Carlson

Teaching my children about Veterans Day is an especially important topic for my family because we are a military family, and my children are exposed to the military life much more than other children. We live on a military installation and they see Soldiers in uniform almost daily. They have also experienced what it feels like to have a parent deploy. They know all too well that service members make sacrifices, as do their families.

My hope is that as they grow older, I can teach them to appreciate veterans and give back to them, not just on Veterans Day, but throughout the year.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the purpose of Veterans Day, celebrated on the anniversary of World War I’s Armistice Day, is to “honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.”

My children may not understand terms like patriotism or sacrifice yet, but they can understand what it feels like for Daddy to miss birthdays, holidays, bedtimes and celebrations because he is “fighting bad guys” across the world. They can understand that sometimes, they have to give up time with Daddy because other people need him more – other people in places they’ve never been. They can understand that it is service members’ job to keep us safe.

This year, we are going to thank veterans for these gifts by visiting veterans in a local assisted living home with my son’s preschool friends and their families. I’ll help my 3.5-year-old, Adam*, decorate Thank You cards with patriotic stickers, and he will help me make some red, white and blue goodies to pass out. I’m hoping handing out something he helped to make and saying Thank You will help Adam learn that many people serve, or have served, our country, and that they deserve our gratitude.

Of course, this is just one way to thank veterans. In her article, “Teaching Kids About Veterans Day With Activities,” Kim Wilson suggests that older children interview veterans about their experiences, especially a veteran family member (www.liveabout.com). Lisa Goodmurphy, a blogger for travelmamas.com, writes that parents can teach children the meaning of Veterans Day by taking them to visit “a memorial, museum or war site.”

There are also a variety of suggestions online for ways to teach kids about the importance of Veterans Day, from crossword puzzles to timelines. While I think these are important in the academic sense, I believe the most powerful and impactful way to teach children about Veterans Day is to give them opportunities to thank and interact with veterans themselves. Not every family lives with a veteran like we do, but I hope those who do not will use Veterans Day as an opportunity to reach out to veterans and say “thank you.”

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