How to Talk to Your Kids About Independence Day

United States Declaration of Independence - United States

Americans love a reason to celebrate! Is there any other national holiday that is quite as exciting as the 4th of July? Close your eyes and think about the many Independence Days you have celebrated. What comes to mind? Barbecues, sunshine, lemonade, the feeling of grass beneath your feet, horseshoes, pie-eating contests, hot dogs, swimming, fireworks. What a great celebration most of us look forward to on July 4th!

July 4th is a great time to share with our children why we celebrate independence in the USA, but also to talk about the harder parts of our nation’s history, and what it means that we are citizens of God’s forever kingdom.

The United States became a country in 1776, after the Revolutionary War. Many of the earliest American colonists fled religious persecution in England. July 4 is a day to celebrate! But while we celebrate, we can also remember.

What to Celebrate on July 4

Celebrating July 4 with your kids is so much fun! But it’s important to remember why. It’s not just American flags and fireworks, but it’s a real celebration of the American experiment: the idea of having a country where people of all ethnic, religious, economic, and cultural backgrounds can live together in freedom and harmony. We haven’t achieved that yet, but take this opportunity to pray and thank God for our country. America is also a country that enshrined religious liberty in the Constitution, and that is a thing to also be really thankful for.

Read this quotation from John Adams, who signed the Declaration of Independence, and discuss it with your kids. Ask questions like “Do you think it would be possible for a country to be like this? Where do you see these ideals in America today? Where do you not see them?”

“Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God . . . What a utopia, what a paradise would this region be.” – Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, Vol. III, p. 9.

What to Remember on July 4

July 4 is a day full of joy, friends, and family. And while there are many reasons to celebrate, it’s also a fantastic opportunity to talk to your kids about the ways America hasn’t always lived up to “liberty and justice for all.”

The 4th often celebrates the founding of the USA, but before any European settlers arrived, many indigenous people groups lived here. You could discuss the displaced indigenous peoples who lived in America before the European settlers. Learn more about indigenous peoples here.

Another thing to discuss and remember is the history of slavery and injustice against African-Americans. During the founding of the United States, around 500,000 slaves were working. As the founding fathers were writing about freedom and liberty, a very large number of people were made to work against their will. It’s a very difficult part of our nation’s history, and the long-lasting systemic impacts of slavery are still part of our nation today. It may be helpful to talk to your kids about Juneteenth, which is a national holiday that marks the end of slavery. Read more about Juneteenth here. 

How to Pray on July 4

Here are a few ideas of ways your family can pray for our country on or around July 4:

  • Pray for our country’s leaders: the president, the Congress, and the Supreme Court
  • Pray for your city or town. Ask God to show you ways you can be a part of your community’s flourishing.
  • Ask God to protect our country and to guide leaders in making decisions that honor Him.

No matter how you celebrate on July 4, take time to have fun and share with your kids some of your favorite memories! Encourage them to ask questions and have open conversations about our nation’s history. And always take time to remind them that our forever home is with God in heaven, and we are citizens of His kingdom first and foremost. Happy 4th!