Involving kids in patriotism

When most of us think of the 4th of July (Independence Day) and Memorial Day, the common ideas that spring to mind include — days off work, family camping, parades, BBQs and fireworks.

Ideally, though, the first idea we should think of is our nation’s freedoms and the people who work to protect those freedoms and us.

Teaching your children that these holidays are more than just a reason to have a day off from work is important.

I've found that a mix of age-appropriate conversations and behavior modeling can instill values such as patriotism, honor and respect for our country in even the youngest of children.

Here are some ways to make learning about the holidays fun and easy for kids of all ages:

Start with Memorial Day

First, look for events in your community. One of the things my family enjoys is going to a Memorial Day service. Most communities have them at their local memorial, VFW or American Legion.

You can find information about the events in your local newspaper or on your city’s website.

The services are usually no more than 60 minutes long, but the experience of attending the service and spending time remembering those who served our country can be an important life lesson for a child. 

Sights, sounds, meanings

Second, explain the reason why we are celebrating the holiday. We use the time in the car on the way to our chosen event to talk about why we celebrate the holiday.

You should also describe some of the things your kids might experience, such as seeing people in uniforms, watching color guards carrying flags and hearing bands playing patriotic songs.

Also, if you see men or women in uniform, approach them and thank them for their service.

If you can, involve your child in that exchange. And remember that even though they may be shy or stay mute, children learn by observing the actions of the adults in their lives.

Display this respectful behavior at parades or during the national anthem too: Proper etiquette is to stand, cover your heart and remove your hat; this should be done during the entire anthem or until the color guard passes.

There have been times where, as a family, we've demonstrated this show of respect and others nearby followed suit because they saw us doing it.

Involve them in the process 

Finally, as we go into an election year, involving your child in the voting process is of the utmost importance.

Teach them about our civic duties as U.S. citizens by bringing them with you to your polling place when you go to vote: Many election judges will even give them a free sticker.

Talk to them about the process and why you do it, but keep the political jargon to a minimum, as to not overwhelm them.

Don’t be afraid to get creative in demonstrating these concepts: Your family could also hold stuffed-animal elections in your house or you can all vote on your favorite pizza toppings!

Read all about it

Here are some additional books that may help your child better understand why these holidays are important to our country:

Trina Greene lives in Farmington with her husband, James and her daughter, Ella.