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World War One centenary: how do you explain the conflict to children?

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By Euronews
World War One centenary: how do you explain the conflict to children?

Europe’s eyes will turn to Paris on Sunday as world leaders arrive for the emotional climax of commemorations marking a century since the end of WWI.

But not everyone will be able to fully focus on remembrance.

Parents with young children will all likely be grappling with the same question: how on earth are we going to explain this horrific war to them?

Of course it’s difficult to tell the story without mentioning the fact the conflict killed around eight million soldiers and nine million civilians.

Nevertheless, one theatre in France has had a go.

Lyon’s Guignol playhouse has used its famous puppets in a production that aims to explain the war and Armistice to youngsters.

It doesn’t try to dodge the difficult facts of the war and manages to do it all with humour and sensitivity.

“It is a sad subject that is difficult, and the word armistice already brings complexity for children from three years old upwards,” said Flore Goubeau, actress and marionette-operator at the Guignol.

“But it’s true that we have tried to brighten what is a heavy subject: by visuals, by music, by dance, by happy characters.

“We try to give a joyous message, in fact. It’s the armistice — we’re speaking about war — but nevertheless it’s the moment when the conflict ended.”

The approach of the Guignol theatre is supported by Esther Gutiérrez, a family therapist based in Madrid.

“We've all come across questions from our children about war, death and murder that have left us blank because we've never thought about talking to them about something we think might scare them or that they won't understand,” she told Euronews. “However, most of the time we are projecting our feelings onto them.

“The ultimate commandment for talking to children about difficult issues is simple: tell the truth.

“Never dodge a question with fantasies, half-truths, or directing the topic elsewhere. Children often ask specific questions and know when we lie to them or find it difficult to answer them. If they feel something like that, many choose not to ask again.

“So the moment a child asks us about a difficult subject like war is a special occasion to talk about certain complicated realities of our world that sometimes take a lifetime to understand.

“But what we do in childhood is going to be the seed to provide the child with tools to reflect on their future and connect them to their reality. Learning from our past is a gift that we must not take away from them."