Explaining war to a child


We took the kids to the Auckland war memorial museum yesterday, as they had a military heritage day on. There were military vehicles outside the museum and inside they had weapons displays and the kids were really fascinated by the "Andrew Sisters Tribute band, The Sisters of Swing" band who were singing by the entrance.

Explaining war to a 4 and 5 year old is hard.

I don't like war, it makes me uncomfortable, using a weapon against another human is a foreign concept.

Looking at the weapons that were actually used on the font line by the servicemen, seems strange to me, all I can think of is how long ago these weapons were held by men, sitting in trenches among their dead comrades. And then here we are 100 years later looking at these items with fascination and awe... it weirds me out.

But I do realize that it is a part of our history that should be explained.

Can children grasp the concept of war?

Kids under 8 probably just wont be able to grasp it completely, but they may able to grasp concepts that are present in their own life like loss and pain and they may be able to grasp how war can separate families and drive them from their homes.

You could explain how people might not have much food during a war or clothes or even toys. That people have different views and that we sometimes don't agree and we may fight about it.

But it's hard, because we constantly tell kids not to fight, how do we tell them that people sometimes do things to other people just to hurt them... or kill them.

What about the wars of today?

Today's wars are all over the TV, and pictures of violence and terrorism flash up on our screens at 6pm each day and we are shown pictures of atrocities from across the world... we are often shown children in the midst of this violence and it breaks my heart.

I cry now if you show me a sad picture of a puppy... I even cried watching an Australian bank add last week!

So trying to explain the horror of the 6pm news is hard. We have started to focus on the "helpers"... "look for the helpers, who are helping the kids", we say.

Explaining the "Bad People"

We have maybe simplified it a bit much by just saying the "bad people" when it came to war, terrorism and violence, but I think when they are only 4 and 5 years old, we cant go to much into it.

We explained what the smoke alarm was in their room once and it kept them up with nightmares for a week! So we just keep things simple for now.

How much can you show?

Obviously it is probably not the best to show the true realities and gore of war, so with this in mind I found that the Auckland Museum was great.

Being able to show them what the soldiers ate, how they used a stretcher and what life in the trenches looked like was really good.

You can check out our day at the museum below :)

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