Written by Deb del Villar, Director of Communications
When you hear the word patriotism, what comes to mind?
It can mean a variety of things to different people. Patriotism is generally defined as a love for or devotion to one’s country.
It is the feeling of pride that comes when you see the flag unfurled and flying high. It is a sense of joy that comes as you join with others in standing and reciting the pledge or singing your nation’s song. It causes you to stop and remember what the flag stands for – the freedom brought through hard-fought battles.
Patriotism can be a hard thing to pin down and pass on because it is so much a feeling and a response. (I challenge you to read a book, The Children’s Story by James Clavell, to get a sense of just how important this concept is.)
As grandparents, here are some ways we can help instill patriotism in our grandchildren.
Celebrate Patriotic Holidays
As you celebrate these holidays, be sure to explain why we celebrate them. Explain who served and how our country has been made what it is today.
If you can visit with someone who is in the military or is a veteran, have them share about their role and experiences. Interview family members who served and write down their stories. If you served, be sure to share your experiences. Consider making thank you cards for those who are serving currently or served in the past. Model praying for the military and veterans.
Share with your grandchildren ways they can honor veterans. Give opportunities for your grandchildren to interact with military personnel. Check out local places that serve veterans and see if you can volunteer. Our grandchildren have been taught to say “thank you for your service” anytime they see someone in uniform. Consider paying for a meal for a serving military member and allow your grandchildren to see this kind gesture. Stress that these men and women help to keep our country safe and strong. We owe a debt of gratitude to them.
Have your grandchildren list the freedoms they enjoy. If they are young, you could have them draw or cut out pictures of things they love to do. Discuss what freedom means. Help them realize that not every child around the world has those same rights.
Teach About the Colors of Your Flag
The colors of America are red, white, and blue. Each color has an important meaning and was chosen intentionally. White signifies purity and innocence, red symbolizes bravery and toughness, while vigilance, endurance, and justice are expressed by blue.
As you travel, see how many flags you can spot and count. Teach your grandchildren the flag rules. Our grandchildren love to help raise the flag in our front yard. If you are not familiar with flag rules, a veteran’s organization can guide you.
Yet America has so many more colors that describe who we are as a nation. God has blessed our country with so much variety. We are indeed a beautiful mosaic of ethnicities, each one made in the image of God. May we teach respect and honor for each and every one, as these diverse perspectives bring richness.
Chances are great that your ancestors came from another country to America. Share with your grandchildren where that country is, and point it out on a map. Do they know why your ancestors immigrated to America? Discover together how far back you can go in your family history, using one of the many genealogical sites available. It is like going on a treasure hunt, collecting stories and ancestors along the way.
Share Your Country’s History
What makes your country great? What causes you to be proud, devoted, and loving towards your country? What makes you defend your country? How can you pray for your country?
Be sure to share answers to these questions in age-appropriate ways to build your grandchildren’s love and devotion, too. Some of my favorite memories are visiting historic places across our country. Maybe this next summer would be a good time to plan a trip with the grandchildren.
There are many books that are great to read to our grandchildren or have them read on their own. One example is After the Dancing Days which helps older elementary grandchildren understand the personal effects of war on individuals, families, and communities.
Talk about what it means to be a citizen by covering the roles and responsibilities. Explain the form of government at an age-appropriate level. Take them on a trip to visit the branches of government and talk with legislators. We have always taken our children with us when we voted. If you have the opportunity, consider doing that with your grandchildren.
Show Your Patriotism
Wear the colors of your flag on patriotic holidays. Display patriotic items in your home. (We have eagles and flags throughout ours.) Share the story of your national anthem and listen to it together.
Pick up a bag of plastic toy soldiers, and have your grandchildren write a thank you note like this example:
Place a single toy soldier inside a clear zipper bag with the thank you attached. Make these to be handed out at a Veteran’s Home or military service center. Be sure to pray for whoever will receive the bag.
As we teach our family about being devoted and loving to their country, let us not forget that this is their temporary home. We are really helping to disciple and prepare our grandchildren for heaven. “…our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, (Philippians 3:20).”
While we are called to be good citizens here, we realize our true lasting citizenship is in heaven. May we all raise good citizens for our earthly home while keeping our eyes on our heavenly home!