Teaching kids patriotism is more important than ever. It’s not just flying the flag, popping fireworks and saying the pledge. But why we’re proud to be American and what it means to not just to be good to others, but the real spirit of the red, white and blue.
I was working on the classic story of July 4th and summer fun when the news broke about the horrible events that happening in Orlando on June 11, 2016. At that time, the beautiful photos I had taken only a few days before of my children donning their red, white and blue took on a whole new level.
“Do you know what patriotism is?” I asked my son.
“No, mama,” his little mouth answered. “What is it?”
Ironically, only a few minutes later, looking down at my calendar he asked, “mama, what’s Flag Day?”
I realized that in that moment, just because we had bought the shirt, hung our flag proudly and appropriately ever holiday, and had taught them to be quiet when the Star-Spangled Banner played at the ball game, we had failed at teaching him and his sister the why…the why we fly the flag, the why we celebrated with fireworks, the why we stop everything when the familiar beat of the pattering drums begin at any sporting event.
The WHY is what matters.
And we’re those people that have at least 15 Texas flags in our home. Heck, we named our kids after U.S. presidents…really: Jackson and Taylor. And we did that on purpose because we felt that a presidential name instilled a sense of prestige, honor, and respect. But it shows just because we felt the power of patriotism, we hadn’t spent the time to instill the same importance to them.
So here are a few ways that will not just teach kids patriotism, but remind you why it’s important for us to remember what it means to be an American and to proudly wear the red, white and blue.
1. It’s more than flying the Flag…but that’s a start.
I love that my local rotary ensures that each holiday that formality calls for a flag, there’s one flying in my yard without request or fail. It’s a service they’ve provided for years and I feel so patriotic to look down my street and see the beautiful Old Glory waving in the wind. However, it’s not just about making sure we’re holding up our end in neighborhood; it’s about showing we’re proud to be a part of a country that has worked for more than 2oo years with just 13 colonies to become a mighty nation of 50 states strong.
2. Don’t just say the Pledge or sing the National Anthem. Understand what the words really mean.
Every day my kids say the Pledge of Allegiance at school. I love the idea of them learning 31-words that were made as a promise to be loyal to our country, to be united together as a nation, and be fair to each other as people to create the best place in the world to live. (Well something like that.) This also goes for the Star-Spangled Banner. The words describe our history and to remind us all what we have, what we do, and what we will hopefully continue to work towards for even more centuries to come.
3. Celebrate Independence Day, Memorial Day, and Labor Day.
More importantly, share the meaning why we celebrate them including Flag Day and Veterans Day. And while picnics and fireworks are fun to watch, we all need to remember it’s more than that. I know each of us may describe what these patriotic holidays mean to us differently, but ultimately, each one signifies how and WHO has served our country to make it what it is.
If you have a member of the military/veteran in your family, speaking with them or explain what they day makes it even more personal for kids to understand. Even if you don’t, speaking with kids that there are men and women all over the world who have helped to protect them and will continue to keep our country strong, will help them to be able to understand that saying thank you is the least that we can do for our armed forces and first responders.
4. Explain the colors of America; beyond the red, white and blue.
The colors of our flag have meaning. White signifies purity and innocence; Red symbolizes hardiness & valour, and Blue shows vigilance, perseverance & justice. However, beyond those colors, are the colors that also make up the U.S. We are a melting pot – different backgrounds, different races, and different religions. But ultimately, our differences are what make us stronger and united as one country.
5. Know the freedoms that make our country what it is.
This is more than just a few minutes of discussion, but doesn’t have to be a history lesson either. Thanks to the Bill of Rights, what makes our country great, is that we are promised that there are certain rights that allow us to live as we want with others without anyone taking them away. However, with those freedoms also mean we have a responsibility to fight for those rights and to give to our country and our communities in any and every way we can.
How do you describe patriotism? How do you share it with your kids?