Reflecting on Memorial Day: Tips on Taking Kids to War Memorials in D.C.

It is easy to forget the reason for Memorial Day with cookouts, family gatherings, and kid’s sporting events crowding the calendar. Memorial Day is a day to remember those who served in wars to defend the United States. When we visit a new city, we often visit memorials to fallen soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.

If you are considering taking your children to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in D.C., I would advise that:

You consider the age of your children.

  • A baby or toddler in a stroller can get fussy and loud. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial would not be a good place to take your baby/toddler unless he is asleep
  • A preschooler will not be able to walk silently past the panels of the Wall. People who visit the Wall might be disturbed by a rowdy preschooler.
  • Before arriving at the Wall, tell your early elementary schooler to walk and talk quietly while viewing the Wall. Young children don’t need the gory details of what the Vietnam War was about, but they do need to know the basics. Tell your 5- to 8-year-old that the Wall represents the people who died during a war with Vietnam, a country in Asia.
  • The ideal age for children to visit the Wall is tweens (9-12 years of age) and teens (13 and up). Tweens and teens know war memorials are a place where family members come to pay respects to those who died in conflicts.

You explain to your children what your expectations are for your children’s behavior.

  • The War Memorials are somber places to visit.
  • Kids need to be respectful.
  • I explained to my children that people view the memorial like a cemetery or a church. I pointed out a person rubbing the name on the wall, another person leaving flowers and a message, and yet another person doing a pencil rubbing of a loved one’s name.
  • Quiet voices at the war memorials.
  • Talk to your children about the fact that the names on the wall are people who died in wars. My youngest had a few questions, but the preteen and teen walked somberly without asking many questions.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a powerful memorial to those who died while valiantly serving the United States. Whenever I visit the wall I am moved by the relatives and fellow service people who come to pay their respects to their loved ones.

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