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The Real Meaning of Memorial Day (page 2)

The Real Meaning of Memorial Day

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Updated on May 26, 2011

What You Can Do

Parents, you can make a difference!  Here are expert ideas for bringing home the true meaning of Memorial Day to your children:

  • Make it Personal.  For many kids, the whole idea of “memorials” can seem odd and abstract. Explain it concretely, and you will give your child a gift not only of understanding a national holiday, but of making its lessons real and personal. Memorials, says Judy Tatelbaum, MSW, author of The Courage to Grieve, “are about remembering people who we have loved who are no longer with us.”  After all, she says, no matter what our specific spiritual beliefs may be, “memories are ways that people live on for us after they’ve died.” So, have you lost a beloved friend, family member or even a pet? Now is a good time to tell loving stories, or even to visit the grave and leave a flower there.  “To make death and grief natural is important for children,” says Tatelbaum. “It gives us permission to be fully human.”  For children, such knowledge can also provide a powerful way to feel connected to our whole national heritage.
  • Honor the National Holiday.  Even if you do just one small thing to participate in this national holiday, you will help your child connect the personal with the political. Is your community organizing a parade? This is a great time to go.  Or if that’s too overwhelming for your child, consider observing our “National Moment of Remembrance” at 3 pm local time on Memorial Day. In the words of the Congressional Proclamation issued in 2000, Americans can “voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of Remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to “Taps.”
  • Celebrate our Freedom!  Somber as it is, Memorial Day is also a celebration of life, a time when we mark and appreciate the heritage that our fallen soldiers left us.  Planning a family barbecue?  By all means, do it with joy.  Eat, drink, and rejoice with loved ones! 

No matter what, of course, remember the weight of this day. In the words of Thomas Sherlock, Arlington National Cemetery Historian, “the most important thing parents can tell their children is that we, as Americans, are able to enjoy the freedoms we do because there have been men and women willing to sacrifice their lives so that we can be free.  We should all stop and remember this on Memorial Day.”

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