‘Absolutely nothing’ sang Edwin Starr in 1970. Of course, he was referring to fighting them – and this I agree with whole-heartedly – but when it comes to teaching our children about these events which mar the pages of history, it’s more like absolutely everything.

So, with the commemoration of the Gallipoli battle coming up, here’s why it’s worth taking a few moments to talk about war with your children around 25 April.

Inspire respect and gratitude

Though now over 100 years ago, the children of today are still indebted – just as we are – to the generation that was all but torn apart by the Great War.

And as few from that generation live to tell their story first hand (certainly none that experienced overseas warfare) it is the duty of those who have learnt about it to pass down the stories, and the respect that they ignite. And the generation that I speak of is worldwide.

With the jingoistic nationalism that the Anzac legend tends to create, it can be easy to forget to acknowledge those that the war was fought against!

Fortunately, it is not hard at all to find accounts by the ‘enemy’ that show that these soldiers were no different from our own, and deserve the same esteem.

War memorials serve to display the gravity of war. Take a walk to your local memorial and read some of the names engraved. A few hundred or thousand can seem insignificant when spoken – even when referring to lives lost – until you see them all written out in one place and the vast space required to list them.

Breed empathy

Empathy is arguably our most important social skill, integral in building positive relationships and communities. While it is a natural skill, it can be hard for children to exercise regarding an event of such enormity.

When teaching young kids about the war it can be easy to shy away from the reality and gravity of the situation that hundreds of thousands of young men and women found themselves in. But it is exactly these sobering details that need to be relayed to encourage empathy from children who otherwise could not possibly imagine what transpired, and how.

One way to help cultivate empathy is to humanise those involved. With names and faces given to soldiers and nurses, they become real human beings – like dad, mum or uncle John – and not just one of a battalion.

Research one particular person and talk about the war through their own experience of it.

Another idea is to read a piece of historical fiction about this time told through the eyes of a child of a similar age to yours. It is much easier to empathise when a common factor, such as age, comes into play. In particular, look out for ANZAC Biscuits by Phil Cummings and Owen Swan (suitable for Grades 1 – 5) and Evan’s Gallipoli by Kerry Greenwood (suitable for Grade 6 – 8).

Make the war to end all wars a reality

World War I was the ‘war to end all wars’ except that… it wasn’t. Nor was the next one or the one after that. Could it be that the war to end wars never does because the ones that preceded it are never sufficiently taught?

Those who recognise the significance of war, its causes and its repercussions, would surely create the sort of leaders and civilians who would do everything in their power to keep it from happening again.

Teaching the war, huh, yeah, what is good for?

Absolutely everything.

Do you talk to your kids about Anzac Day and other wars in our history? Do you think it’s importance for parents to have these discussions with our kids? Tell us in the comments below.

  • I agree it’s important to teach children about the cost of war and the sacrifice young men made that they never should have had to. I think it’s equally important to be mindful of the mythology of the war as the “birthplace of a nation” which whitewashes the history of our country.
    I actually struggle with the way we focus so heavily on Gallipoli as a badge of honour when it was a battle Australians were sent to with no regard for the lives from British commanders to fight a battle they would always lose. Sending young men to certain death is tragic and I’m glad we mourn the senseless loss of life, but why don’t we focus on the humanitarian actions of australian soldiers this much?


  • From a military family we commemorate and pay our respects every year. We have taught our boy the meaning behind and what our ancestors/current serving member are/did go through. It is something that can not be forgotten and we need to learn from our past.


  • It’s history, we need to be teaching all history to kids in school, they need to understand it. Learn from it to prevent it from happening again


  • We should treach children everything possible, we are always learning something, why not the complete history


  • It’s part of our history and of course our children should learn about it. I think it’s very important for them to understand what happened and why. And to be thankful


  • I absolutely agree that our children should learn about the war and other important/memorable events in history. I also agree that school can only teach so much, and that in order for our children to understand/ and or respect our diggers it is on us as parents to lead by example and talk to them about it also.


  • I think it is very important for kids to learn about Anzac Day and history.


  • Definitely important for parents to talk to their kids about it. Schools will teach kids as well but it has extra impact when parents also care about Anzac day and see its importance.


  • These are great suggestions. We always try to highlight the human cost when we talk to our kids.


  • Yes once he is older we will educate him on what happened and why we go to the dawn service each year to pay our respects to the diggers who gave their lives for our freedom.


  • Our children need to know their history and from both sides too. In school we missed out on a lot of history as it was so one sided


  • I think it is important to talk about our history with kids. They need to understand our past and where we came from where we are now and even decide about what might happen in the future.


  • My mum and dad live in the Netherlands and both grew up in the 2nd world war. So important to keep these stories alive !


  • We have a responsibility to teach our children the gravity of war so mistakes made in the past aren’t revisited in the future.


  • It helps if kids can talk to older family members that went through the War. My Mum was able to tell my kids what it was like growing up in England as a child during the war.


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