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Train Up a Child: Children learn from the past

         Memorial Day is not just for adults. Children can gain much benefit from participating in Memorial Day traditions. The holiday provides a wonderful opportunity for parents to tell stories of family history as well as explaining some of the past wars that have been fought for our freedom. The ritual of decorating graves brings a reality that life on this earth has an ending, and we need to make good use of the time we have here.

         Children can gain a sense of pride from learning of accomplishments of past ancestors. As they hear stories from parents of the good accomplishments and heroic deeds of relatives, a feeling of “I want to do something heroic, too” is instilled in children. They gain a higher purpose in life and do not concentrate so much on self-pleasure. Stories of “black sheep” in the family should also be told as examples of what not to become. Children are quite often surprised to hear of both good and bad examples in the family background. Their lives are greatly influenced by these stories that can come only from the family.

         Memorial Day is a time to remember not only family members who have passed away, but it is also a time to remember those who have fought for our country. Children should hear this at least every year. Even if the stories have been told before, they should be told again. Hearing such stories brings a sense of reality to life that is often lacking in today’s children. It also instills a sense of appreciation for our country and the freedom we still enjoy. A walk through many cemeteries will reveal the small Civil War gravestones of so many who fought in that war. Just the walk, itself, is a good history lesson for children.

         If decorations are being taken to the graves of past loved ones, let the children hold the decorations and put them in place. Doing so brings home the reality of death. Although this may sound a bit gruesome, children need to learn that death is a part of life. Some people opt to give donations to charities in memory of loved ones rather than spend the money on flowers. In such a case, include the children in the planning process and let them help in any way possible even to the point of using some of their own money.

         A good way to cap off the day’s activities is to have a family picnic or some other family activity. There will probably be time for games. At this time of year, outdoor games can be played with the children to make the day a pleasant memory for them. Nothing makes a child happier than to play games with parents. They think it is really funny to watch parents run and play. It is especially fun if they can beat their parents in a game.

         Memorial Day can be a day to remember the past, have meaningful fun in the present, and help children be better adults for the experience in the future.

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