I read a blog post yesterday by a nursery provider which emphasised the importance of teaching the next generation why we have annual Remembrance, and I couldn't agree more. I was excited to try the recommendations until I read "DO NOT MENTION DEATH". It conceded that it's difficult to explain the horrors of war without mentioning death, but suggested focus on rationing, spilt-up families and living in trenches.
Yes, death is a complicated topic for a nursery teacher to tackle in groups with a number of different backgrounds & levels of understanding. But if you leave death out altogether, I think you completely miss the point of remembrance.
Firstly, the purpose of Remembrance is to remember and honour those who have died in Service. It is a significant insult to them and those who served with them to cut them out of the occasion.
"But is it fair to burden children with such a concept? Will they be able to cope with talking about death?"
In my experience, yes. Absolutely. If you introduce the concept and let them ask questions then children learn and process things when they are ready to do so, and at a level that works for them. Remembrance is a good way to raise the concept of death in a slightly removed way, so they can explore the concept without being overwhelmed by it (e.g. unlike if their first experience of death was a dying family member). It allows them to understand, at whatever level is appropriate to them, that people do die, that this is important, and that they are remembered. For Catholics, this remembering is coloured by the hope of heaven. Children aren't stupid; they will already, if they have any experience of the natural or spiritual world, be aware that death exists. I feel strongly that it is important for their wellbeing to put that knowledge into the context of Remembrance.
Even more importantly, Remembrance demonstrates to them that to love and to serve is key. Like the rest of us, children need to know that there is something more than themselves, more than their family, and that it is worth fighting for. That, in cases of absolute extremity, it is even worth dying for. They need to know that life is THAT important. To serve (in any capacity) is one of the things that makes us most human, and from a Catholic perspective, that brings us closest to God. Love cannot be real without service.
Remembering those who have dedicated their lives to service and who have made the ultimate sacrifice is so important because they were real people who really lived, suffered and died, and that we must respect them for that. It's also important because it shows the next generation that they are called to more: that they are called to love. Don't deprive them of this.