Historic parks and battlefields are a very unique experience for the majority of kids. Some are overwhelmed by the horror of war while others are fascinated by the stories behind it. Much of this is due to how we adults present the stories. If you are taking your kids to a battlefield, how do you prepare them for it? How do you make sure they gain an appreciation for the loss and the sacrifices? Most importantly, how do you explain war to your kid?
Here are some tips to handle this and ensure that the visit is a positive experience:
Tips for Visiting Historic Battlefields with Kids
Learn details about the battle and what it meant – Kids need to know the truth where history is concerned. Unfortunately, history can be rather ugly. If you learn about the battle, one or both sides will generally have a moral reason for the battle. This is not always the case, but focusing on this can take some of the horror out of the situation. Focus less on the how and more on the why.
Watch an age appropriate movie about the location or battle – This will not always be available, but local libraries often will have material. Seeing something on the screen can make it easier to understand if you are a kid, but make sure you consider the age and the topic matter. Battles can be presented in a way that kids can understand and learn without the blood and guts.
Talk about the hard parts as you visit – Part of a battlefield visit and National Park is to remember those that have lost their lives. This is particularly so in the case of those that fought for us personally. Visit with this for a few moments when appropriate and make sure your kids understand the loss. Kids should never be sheltered from the truth of where we came from….good or bad.
Bring maps or pictures – Having a nice map of what the land looked like before and comparing it to now can be very fascinating to a kid. Let them see how the battle played out on your map and then point it out in person. This is a great way to interest them in the history of the battle and how it played out.
Explain the battle from both perspectives – Kids are always going to be wondering why the fight took place. That is a natural and common question for anyone. Spend some time explaining why they were fighting and explain it from both sides. If you have a situation that is tough to describe without evil, touch on that evil. Again, kids are going to need to know the truth as they grow up. Knowing evil exists in this world is a part of growing up and battlefields are often an example of such.