For any preppers who have kids, you naturally want them to become capable, competent adults when they grow up. I don’t know of any good parent that does not want that for their child.
But while they are small, it is only natural that you, as their parent, will spend an inordinate amount of time fussing and worrying over them, and your worries might be tripled as a prepper because you know just how bad things can really get, and how quickly!
On a strictly practical level, smaller children place an intense strain on resources, requiring a tremendous amount of attention, supplies, and general investment to make sure they stay safe and hopefully make it through whatever situation you are enduring with their health and their psyche intact.
Unfortunately, children aren’t truly good for much on the practical level of prepping, lacking the strength, endurance and intellect of adults.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Most children are not too young to learn from their parents’ example, and take up the skills of prepping.
Even for very young children, it is possible to lay the groundwork, the foundational assets, that will pave the way for a lifestyle of readiness and self-sufficiency.
This is a great way to help fortify and protect the child you love so dearly, and also to prepare them for hard times so that they might better contribute to the family, or at least reduce their burden in some small way.
In this article I will be sharing with you tips, tricks and procedures for getting your kid started off on the road to preparedness correctly!
With Changing Ages, Changing Attitudes
Before we get to the good stuff below, I feel like I must issue a sort of disclaimer.
Much of the information presented is applicable towards younger children, or at least children who are small enough that they still both adore and obey mom and dad pretty much to a “tee”. Kids, well, kids are people, and that means they are individuals.
Myself and all of my friends have kids that run the behavior gamut despite our best efforts, including angelic, perfect children that hang on every word their parents issue and hateful little goblins that constantly run amok, misbehave and shave years off of Mommy’s and Daddy’s lives.
You, as the parent, will need to make the ultimate decision on whether or not your kid is ready, or even able to pick up what you were putting down. If they aren’t, you might not want to waste your time. That’s okay, and I’m not judging.
Also when kids start hitting puberty and progressing into their teenage and then young adult years their personalities will be going through tectonic and often radical shifts.
The good, obedient and cheery kid might turn brooding and surly, or at least affect as much. Conversely the shrieking little hellspawn might start to take shape as a promising young person.
The child’s interests, mindset, attention span and more all play a part, so you’ll need to now as always play your parental cards right if you want to correctly influence their behavior.
Easier said than done, but like anything else you would teach them there is a time, place, incentive and penalty that in concert will encourage them to arrive at the correct answer.
Disclaimer over, let’s get to it!
Kids Are Adaptable
The first thing I would teach any parent who’s wanting to teach their kids the basics about prepping is to remind them that familiarity often breeds contempt, and though that is a concept we typically reserve for discussing oversights with our friends, adult parents and peers, it definitely applies to the parents of young children, too.
It is always a surprise to me (and never fails to bring a smile to my face) when I see just how badly the average parent underestimates the intelligence and adaptiveness of their child.
It is my assertion that kids are always a little farther ahead of the curve then we think they are, despite our best assessments.
Though their brains are not fully formed and not as capable, much of the time, of the same feats of lateral thinking that adult brains are, they are wired for learning, and the switch is definitely jammed in “read/write” mode.
Don’t be afraid to introduce concepts to your child that might not normally be the purview of learning at that age. You might be surprised at how grounded they can really be.
Take myself for instance: my journey into learning firearms began at 5 years old on the buzzer, and I mean really began. I was regularly target shooting, helping dad clean the guns, learning nomenclature, ballistics, safety and all sorts of other variables. By the time I was 10 I was ahead of every, single other boy that I knew and many adults.
There are topics that your child might not get or might not be ready for and you as the parent must notice this and adjust course accordingly, but if your kid surprises you with just how well they are tracking, there is no reason to hinder them unnecessarily. Keep teaching them, and see how far they can go!
Emphasize Team / Family Effort
If there is one tie that binds most small children it is an inborn desire to please their parents, and receive accolades from them.
Part of this basic desire manifests itself in the propensity to perform humorous stunts, act silly, and generally clown around so that Mom and Dad will laugh before rewarding them with a hug and a kiss or a ruffle of the hair.
It also manifests as a desire to “help” with chores or other tasks, even if they are really just holding mom or dad back with their efforts!
This is the perfect opportunity to build a culture of mutual family or team effort. It is never, ever too early to start inculcating your kids with the idea that everyone in the family has a job to do, and how important it is the family works together for the mutual benefit of the family unit. Most children can easily understand the idea; after all, we are social creatures!
This phase is one of the outer bounds or framing devices of personal responsibility, and personal responsibility taken to its logical zenith is really all that prepping is.
You are responsible for your life and the life of the people you love, and will not outsource anything that is important to maintaining and improving that to anybody else, no matter who they are, government or otherwise.
This is a great time to teach the child that they have to be able to rely on themselves one day just like they rely on Mommy and Daddy, and one day Mommy and Daddy will have to rely on them.
With a proper system of rewards and encouragement in place for any behavior that helps the family, or team, it won’t be long before your child is self-steering, constantly looking for ways to contribute.
Make it Fun!
There is one thing that all children love, and all former children loved about their childhood, it is having fun. Kids crave excitement, stimulation, laughter, activity.
All of this is the raw input that growing brains need to learn, to sort and collate. You’d better make sure you are providing it in abundance if you want to keep a child’s attention!
For this reason, when it is time to learn skills or teach important concepts you usually need to dress it up as a game or a fun activity. This could be something as simple as a race during a family fire drill, or something as complicated as a scavenger hunt utilizing concepts of personal equipage for bugging out.
It could be a high-stakes game of hide and seek when the time comes to shelter in place, or escape the danger posed by a bad guy.
It could be something as obvious as walking them through the steps of building a fire on a family camping trip so you can get on to making those tasty, tasty s’mores!
This is where you really need to kick in your imagination, and the sky is the limit. All you need to do is boil down the most important concepts about emergency procedures, skills or whatever to the most critical concepts and then dress up those concepts as a simple game with an objective and a clearly defined “win” condition.
If the child enjoys his or herself, repeat the game often enough and when it is time to intensify their learning you’ll be pleased to notice this had a sort of wax on, wax off effect- they were practicing the whole time and didn’t know it!
Use Characters they like as Examples
I have never known one single child, including myself, that did not have some greatly admired idol, assuming it isn’t already mommy or daddy. This is usually a fictional character from a cartoon or movie they absolutely adore, and most of the time that is fine.
Even in this blasted era, there are still enough positive characteristics that can be mined from children’s characters, a notion that you should exploit to its fullest.
If your child admires a classically heroic character, one that is just, honorable, prepared and self-sufficient you can foment their own enthusiasm for becoming likewise by explaining to them that learning to do X, Y or Z is how they will become more like their idol, and explain further that it was only by continuous effort, education and self improvement that their idol came that way in the first place!
This is usually a highly effective and simple tactic to supercharge your child’s desire to learn various prepping centric skills. Keep in mind the children are also somewhat capricious when it comes to their favorite characters, and the hero of this week might be ancient history next week.
You can increase opportunities for enrichment and provide yourself with a little more ammunition that you can use by talking to them regularly about who their favorite character is and what it is that they like about them.
Instructions Should Be Memorable and Repeatable
For smaller children and older children alike, always take pains to ensure that the steps you are teaching them or the overall procedures are memorable and repeatable.
Mnemonics are great, but even instructions that you can craft into a jingle or just something that is noticeably sticky in the mind akin to a classic earworm is going to be beneficial, particularly if this is information they will need to recall and employ in an emergency.
One classic example that everybody, and I mean everybody, learned and remembers to this day is Stop, Drop and Roll: standard procedure for extinguishing yourself or someone else who has caught on fire!
I know kids in my day were learning this in preschool, pretty much as soon as they were old enough to talk and walk.
There are multiple ways to make your instructions and procedures memorable. You could send them to a sing-song tune, use a rhyming meter, frame them as a story or any number of other options.
The best way to reinforce this type of memorization is with periodic question and answer sessions. If you quiz your child about what they should do if they catch on fire you know it won’t be long before they remember and tell you “stop, drop and roll”. Remember to always reward them for remembering and recalling the information quickly.
As they progress or get a little older, you can start asking follow-up questions and having them walk you through their thought process of what they would do in increasingly challenging scenarios.
Prioritize Personal Agency
If kids have one inbuilt disadvantage when it comes to learning typical prepping skills, even the most rudimentary ones, it is their desire to typically rely on and obey adults, especially in times of trouble.
When children “vapor lock”, become scared, anxious or uncertain, they will typically freeze or hide and wait for adults to save the day or provide instructions.
This is a delicate balancing act, especially with smaller children, but I firmly believe it is best to start nudging, (gently nudging!), kids out of this frame of mind and into personal agency even while they are still young.
Don’t think it’s a good idea? Consider this; did you as a child learn how to call 911? Really, why is that? Why should any child need to call first responders or furthermore learn how to talk to an operator in a meaningful way? You got it: you just never know!
Something might have happened to Mommy or Daddy. For whatever reason they might be by themselves or the only one capable of saving themselves. You just never know.
Some good drills for children depending on their age are, as mentioned:
- learning how to call first responders using a variety of methods including 911,
- learning how to interact with trustworthy strangers if they become separated from mommy or daddy,
- knowing which neighbors or family members they can trust and who they can run to in an emergency if they are by themselves,
- and even rudimentary medical intervention if they have the strength and dexterity to attempt it.
You might scoff at the latter, but one of my friends has two daughters, ages 8 and 9, and they are already shockingly well-drilled and capable when it comes to the application of a tourniquet.
Daddy and Mommy both occasionally surprise them by walking into the room, announcing that they are hurt and then tossing a tourniquet at them or having them retrieve it from one of their pockets.
I know the notion of a child dealing with a major extremity hemorrhage is unsettling, whether it happens to them or someone else, but if the child is capable why wouldn’t you want them to learn life-saving techniques of any sort?
Don’t Overload Them
The last piece of advice I would give you for producing productive prepper children is to be wary of overloading them. As I mentioned above, children’s brains are still developing, and that means they fatigue quickly, and lose interest even quicker than that.
If your child is gung-ho to keep going on anything, by all means indulge them, but if they tire of it or just need a break that’s okay too.
I have seen far too many well-intentioned and genuinely caring parents basically entrap their kids and force them to drink from a “fire hose” of knowledge when all they can handle is a cupful. This leads to burnout, resentment and instills the exact opposite attitude of the one that you want.
Also, some kids don’t do as well at task switching as others, and might want to focus down on only one or two topics versus a variety.
This is not always the case, so if your child is keen for new information, new adventures and new “games” you might be best served to season them with a variety of subjects versus trying to give them a master class in one.
It is possible for children of any age to learn or at least begin learning the principles of self-preparedness.
Using their know-how and a little bit of diligence, moms and dads can easily engage their children in a meaningful, fun way, while also preparing them for the hazards and dangers that the world has in store for them.
Implemented consistently enough and with a careful eye towards matching the child to the task at hand you can produce kids that will already be capable preppers by the time they are teenagers.