Every child is a huge responsibility from the day he or she is born and that goes double for when chaos breaks loose. After Hurricane Katrina, hundreds of children went missing not just because their parents weren’t prepped, but because they didn’t know what to do (victims of normalcy bias).
Sometimes, when taught right, children can be more focused and brave in face of utter chaos than any grown-up. And that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about in this article: 10 great ways to make sure your kids are ready for anything. Let’s get started!
#1. Go Hiking And Camping
This is, by far the easiest way for them to learn about survival… even if they don’t really care about it. Hiking and camping is something many people do so they won’t have trouble understanding the benefits, such as building overall physical strength and stamina and getting in touch with nature and away from technology for a little while.
Of course, the benefits from a survival standpoint are even more important as your kids:
– Get to practice bugging out with a backpack on their backs
– Get used to walking on uneven terrain and sleeping in the middle of nature
– Learn how to set up a survival tent / shelter, outdoor cooking and many more.
As an added bonus, while you’re teaching your kids these things you get to perfect your survival skills as well and can also see where your survival gear may need improving. Maybe it’s time to throw away that cheap tarp and go with a heavy duty tarp used by truck drivers — these are tarps designed to handle the weather and high winds. You can rig anything from an A-frame tent shelter to even have it double as a sleep-straight hammock that can be hung between two trees to keep your kids off the ground and away from the bugs and critters.
Instead of a cheap fuel burning camp stove, maybe it’s time to go with a Solo Stove — who needs to carry fuel when you can cook with sticks and brush or even toilet paper and cardboard (in an urban setting).
Go through all your survival gear and look closely at each piece and figure out ways to choose pieces that are smaller, lighter, and yet of good quality. Each of your kids bags should have:
– Headlamp with extra batteries (AAA weighs less, takes less space) (sample)
– Small bottle(s) of iodine drops to purify water (sample)
– Bottle of high strength sun screen (transfer to a container that has a screw top lid so that it does not spill out during transport) (sample)
– Bivy sack (waterproof bag that protects a sleeping bag from the weather) (sample)
– Lifestraw personal water filter (sample)
– Emergency fire starter (sample)
– Waterproof compression stuff sack (packs a sleeping bag down so that it can be carried in a backpack and not take up much space; be sure to choose suitable sizes for specific needs including for protecting small electronics) (sample)
– Cropped and laminated maps (protects from rips and tearing)
– Compass (if your children don’t know how to use a compass, here are the best compasses for survival on the market – get one and teach your kid how to use it)
– Bic lighters in a waterproof container
– Survival knife (suitable for children)
– Packaged freeze dried meals (type carried by backpackers) (sample)
– Basic first aid kit with ointments for cuts, burns, bites, stings, etc.
– Vitamin / mineral tablets (show your children how to break these tablets in half or even quarters to extend use and share amongst each other — they may not be getting 100% of what the bottle says on the label but at the least they are getting something each day or every other day).
– 2 water bottles (one for carrying untreated water and the other for carrying water that has been treated and or boiled to kill viruses and parasites; teach your children to label each bottle so that they do not contaminate their drinking water)
– Solo Stove and or Solo Stove with add-on water boiling kit (sample)
This list does not cover every aspect or possible emergency need but will get you started on the basics for each of your children’s back packs. Other pieces of survival gear you can include are a stocking cap, cold weather gloves, and wool socks — even summer nights can be chilly and sleeping with these items on can make the difference between a miserable night in the cold vs a good night’s sleep with comfortable gear on. Here’s a more in depth list of essential camping gear that you should also take a look at.
#2. Make Sure They Each Have Their Own Bug-Out Bag
Since assembling a bug out bag is easy and fun, you can start with that. Some of the things to consider include:
– Clothes to keep them warm (kids can easily get sick while out in the nature)
– First aid items as well as things pertaining to hygiene such as Band-Aids, wet wipes, nursing pads and so on
– Personal info with data (especially for any babies or toddlers) as well as yourself (You should laminate these documents or you can just keep them in Ziploc bags — your choice.)
– Treats to help keep boost morale when the world is going down the drain
Let’s not forget the bag itself. It’s pretty obvious that you need a smaller one for them and to try to keep it light. Get something of quality and make sure it has a padded shoulder straps and a hip belt (get your children fitted for a pack at a local outdoors store like Cabelas or Bass Pro Shops or whatever is reputable in your area — if the prices in these stores are high, compare online to Amazon or possibly find used on Craigslist or Ebay, though nothing’s assured when it comes to used gear).
#3. Make Sure They’re Prepared While In School
I think it’s pretty obvious that the chances of a disaster striking when the whole family’s at home are slim. Since your kids spend an adequate amount of time in school, you need to make sure they know what to do when you’re not with them.
Their teacher may or may not know what they’re doing but you need to at least make sure you cover the basics. At the very least your children should:
– Know what to do in case of each possible disaster scenario (tornado, earthquake etc.)
– Be able to contact you immediately
– Know a meeting place and how to get there quickly and safely
– Be able to get home on their own if there’s no other way. Once they’re old enough, introduce them to the idea of a get home bag and make sure they have one any time they’re far enough away that it could be a long trek home if they meet challenging or difficult conditions (e.g a natural disaster of some kind).
You can take this one step further and actually talk to your child’s teachers to see if the school can do more to educate your child about what needs to be done in case of an emergency. Of course there are rules, regulations and procedures for such scenarios but if those teachers aren’t preppers themselves, that could be a problem. Another thing you should do is make sure your kid has the necessary items to survive, an EDC kit. Obviously, you don’t want other children to single yours out because they’re prepping (see our entire section or survival prepping here) so you have to instruct them to keep these items concealed at all costs. This is a great way for them to learn OPSEC.
#4. Infants And Toddlers Need Special Attention
If disaster catches you with toddler, that’s a big problem, especially if you have no choice but to bug out. Most preppers would rather bug in in such cases and I hope you will to, but you can’t count on that.
Consider the following when prepping an infant or a toddler for TEOTWAWKI:
– Make sure you stock up on diapers.
– Ensure the mother gets the right nutrients during and post-SHTF if she’ll be breastfeeding.
– If you’re bugging into an apartment, make sure your child stays in the most soundproof room of the house so his or her crying doesn’t attract attention.
#5. Influence Them To Learn New Skills
Kids nowadays are literally living their lives on the Internet. If Steve Jobs didn’t allow his kids to have iPads, surely you need to influence your kids to teach them basic survival, homesteading and outdoor skills. Some of these skills you might be able to teach them yourself, others, such as first aid and self-defense are best taught with instructors.
See, learning survival skills from a young age does more than prepare your children for critical situations. They also learn about responsibility and discipline, two crucial pillars for both having a successful career and starting a family. In fact, learning some of these skills may actually determine them to choose a certain career path later on in life.
#6. Play Games
What better way to teach your kids about survival than playing games? The right games, of course, such as:
– The basic “what if” game, to stimulate their imagination
– “I Spy” — a great for developing attention to detail
– Hide and seek (mostly for the part about hiding)
– The scavenger hunt game
– Board games (such as Outdoor Survival)
– Any team sports, really, because they need to be team players if you’re all going to survive
#7. Teach Them About Money
Sure, every parent will tell their kids that money doesn’t grow on trees but you should go beyond that. Don’t forget that a teenage prepper needs a better financial discipline than his peers. They may have to go out and eat out less than their peers to spend some of their money on tools, gear and improving their skills.
One of the things you should focus on is having and maintaining a budget and, specifically, on splitting it between their daily expenses and preps. When they overspend, it’s important NOT to give them extra money.
Another thing you need to show them is how to get items on the cheap. Coupons, discounts, buying in bulk, you don’t really have to go beyond basics. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d be the ones teaching you how to look up for cheap quality gear online.
#8. Coordinate With Other Parents
What better way to learn everything we talked about so far than to team-up with other likeminded parents to teach all of your children about survival? More children brought together means more things to do and learn, more team work and the chance for some of them to learn leadership skills. More parents means more knowledge to spread so even you can learn new things about survival and preparedness!
How do you go about figuring out which of your neighbors are likeminded? A couple of ways to do it would be to gather everyone at your house for a party or poker night and casually mention how things are looking worse. Once you spark a conversation with one or two of them, the next step is easy: invite them over next time and tell them to bring their children. I think you know what to do next…
Here’s a thought… Since home-schooling is a must in a post-apocalyptic world, why not start teaching survival classes starting today? You can even make it formal, require them to have notebooks and even give them assignments!
If one parent is a nurse, if another is good with woodworking and you’re good on general survival, you can create your own survival school. If this doesn’t help glue together a survival network of preppers, I don’t know what will.
#9. Take Them To Flea Markets
Bartering isn’t learned by reading or talking about it. Take them to a flea market, show them how it’s done, then let them try it for themselves. It’s a totally different learning experience because they actually get to interact with complete strangers who can surprise them with their negotiation strategies.
There are plenty of bargaining techniques you can teach them. For example, “the silent close” technique is all about staying silent after making an offer no matter how long the seller takes to answer. This works great for building self-control and is a great way to get a bargain.
#10. Develop Their Instincts And Awareness
Most kids are naïve and trustworthy by nature unless you instruct them otherwise. You need to teach them to stay out of trouble, particularly when chaos breaks loose and good people turn to savages. Heck, even women aren’t safe in such times, just look at what’s happening inside those refugee camps in Europe.
One of the main things to focus on is the fight or flight response. When they perceive someone is after them, they need to act fast and run out of harm’s way instead of just assume that person is friendly.
In such cases, kids shouldn’t fight the attacker but run away but how do you teach them that? How do you get them to train their instinct? One way was already mentioned a little while ago when we talked about the game hide-and-seek. The other way is to take them to a busy market or square and teach them how to read people. Ask them questions such as:
Do you think that guy is trouble?
… or …
What would you do if you were alone out here and, all of a sudden, he rushed towards you? Little questions like these will get your child to use his or her imagination and simulate in his or her own head what would happen. Thus, when it actually happens, their brain will know what to do.
Other Tips For Preparing Children For Disaster
I’ll add here the things that didn’t quite fit into the rest of the tips:
– As your children grow, make sure the clothing in their BOBs are replaced with larger sizes.
– Whatever you do to teach your children survival, ask them questions (this is the best and easiest way to get someone involved into doing something because it gets their brain to think)
– Take regular trips to your bug out location so they know the routes. Even better, turn off the GPS, give them a map and let them guide you step by step to get there. And if they tell you to make a wrong turn, do it. Making mistakes is an excellent way of learning.
Persistence And Perseverance — And Holding On To Hope
It’s easy for kids to pick up on negative emotions and, since prepping is mostly that, you have to let them know it’s ok to enjoy life. The last thing you want is your kid to fall into depression, like I did when I was about 10. For some reason, for a few days straight I was petrified by the idea that, no matter what I do, I’ll eventually die.
– Don’t be afraid to discuss death with your kids, as well as life, and important reasons why they shouldn’t give up hope and to keep trying, no matter what. Persistence and perseverance makes survivors.
– Don’t forget the basics to do around the house in case you’re not there and they are. Teach them how to shut off utilities and how to quickly turn on all faucets to stockpile emergency water (as soon as a disaster strikes, start filling your bath tub with water and every empty jug in the house … you may only have a few minutes before water to the neighborhood shuts down but if you’re fast you can stockpile several dozen gallons of fresh water in addition to what you may already have in storage).
Are Your Kids More Prepared Now Than Before?
Well, this is it. You should now have a pretty good starting point to prepping your children for what may or may not come regardless of his or her age. I specifically stayed away from some of the more controversial topics such as firearms and politics as I want you to be the one who decides if they are things to expose them to.
However, you do have to have a serious talk with them about prepping, survival because your ability to convince them about the importance of prepping will determine whether or not they’ll continue with this or, on the contrary, they might do less and less to prepare.