Talking to Your Children about the Flags
Dear Hudson Parents,
Throughout June, the Unitarian Church of Marlborough & Hudson is hosting a Field of Flags exhibit as a memorial to all the US servicemen and women who have been killed in the Iraq War. Each of the flags planted in our lawn represents one death, totaling nearly 4600 flags.
We are aware of the strong visual and emotional impact that this display will have on all who see it. Given our central location in town and our proximity to the Boys and Girls Club on Church Street, we are especially aware that many children will see the flags and wonder why they are there. To help you answer their questions, we offer the following tips and resources, compiled by the Rev. Alice Anacheka-Nasemann.
Tips for Talking to Your Children about the Flags:
War and death are upsetting topics for people of any age; yet, they are a part of life that needs to be addressed. Don’t be afraid to talk about them with your child. Make time to hear and discuss her or his questions. At the same time, avoid graphic images of wartime violence on TV, or in books or magazines, which can frighten children. Follow these basic guidelines for talking about these issues with your child:
- Listen carefully to your child’s questions and make sure you understand what your child is asking before you offer an answer. Answer simply but honestly, and then give your child the opportunity to either accept the answer or ask another question. Speak from your heart and share your own beliefs about death, war and your hopes for peace, always attentive as to how your sharing is affecting your child. Avoid flooding your child with too much information. Watch for cues that he or she has heard enough or is having a strong emotional reaction to the conversation.
- Base your answers on your child’s age and maturity levels. Very young children can simply be told something like, “These flags are for soldiers who died in war. We put them there to show that we are very sad they died.” A teenager, on the other hand, will be more able to talk about the specifics of the Iraq war and may have strong feelings about what actions our government should take at this point. A teenager may also be struggling to understand deeper questions about human nature.
- Offer hope. Give your child an opportunity to take action and feel empowered to help US servicemen and women and to work as peacemakers in our world. See the resource list below for ideas on how to do this.
- The Hudson Public Library Children’s Room will have a special display with books on topics of war, peace, and talking about death with children. A bibliography of recommended reading is available on our Church website, ucmh.org.field-of-flags/books-for-children-parents-teachers/.
- For opportunities to learn more and to take action to support the troops and to help restore peace in Iraq, visit the following websites: www.anysoldier.com, http://uua.org/socialjustice/issues/iraq/index.shtml, http://afsc.org/iraq/default.htm, operationiraqichildren.org, or www.womenstandwithiraq.org.
- The Rev. Alice Anacheka-Nasemann is available to present a free 45-minute storytelling program of peace stories that are neither religious nor political, but which emphasize nonviolent conflict resolution. You can contact her through our Church office at 978-562-9180.
In closing, the Field of Flags can be visually and emotionally affecting to adults and children alike. We hope that many people from our community, including families and groups of children, will take time to come and visit the flags, honoring and remembering the dead. If you wish to know how you can arrange a special visit or volunteer to be part of a daily vigil of reading the names of the service men and women represented, please call our Church office at 978-562-9180.