Last Updated on October 19, 2020
Editors Note: Another guest contribution from valknut79 to The Prepper Journal. As Summer vacation approaches. As always, if you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and be entered into the Prepper Writing Contest with a chance to win one of three Amazon Gift Cards with the top prize being a $300 card to purchase your own prepping supplies, then enter today!
It takes a certain kind of person to become a prepper. This lifestyle has a certain charm, but because it is often backward-looking, it doesn’t appeal much to the next generation and their instant gratification, tech-savvy lifestyle. That said, kids are one of the main reasons why people turn to preparedness, and protecting and preserving a family is one of the main reasons why people are tuned into the idea of future-proofing their life. When you inevitably pass away, will you have done enough to instill the values of preparedness into your children, so that they can live a safe, stable and prepared life?
I was never in the military, but my wife and I run a household of very near-military precision. My children say “Yes, sir” and “No Sir” and they follow orders. They know hand signals, and can interpret a glare or a look. When it comes to their behavior, we correct quickly, often, and we always pull them aside for an explanation of why they need to alter their behavior. There is no good-cop-bad-cop between my wife and I. We are both disciplinarians, and we planned it that way from the start.
We make it a habit of saying “no” just for the sake of having our children practice disappointment, and we made sure that they had chores from the age of three. A three-year-old can set the table and get the mail, a four year old can change laundry from wet to dry and drag recycling bins out on garbage day.
Our children have responsibility, and they also are familiar with following orders. Because both Dad and Mom are present as disciplinarians, we have only minimal difficulty in having our children follow along with the plan. If we need to move quickly, nine times out of ten, we can get our kids packed up and out the door in a flash. If they are told to be quiet, hold or bring something important, they can do it. They know how to dial out for help, and they know their neighbors in case of an emergency when (for whatever reason) Mom and Dad cannot respond.
Our style isn’t perfect, but in a bug-out situation, I have faith that even our youngest will be able to perform the tasks we need them to do.
My daughter knows the value of studying far before the tests in school. She has seen that when she crams, she does worse on the exams and remembers less when the inevitable final exams come. Despite this, without enforcement from her mother and I, she would cram for every test, even while espousing the value of learning and revisiting along the way. Practicality is always trumped by momentary fun.
This doesn’t make sense to an older person. If you see the value in acting a certain way, then you should act that way. They forget an important part of being a child: young people are all about the concept of play (even well into their late teens and twenties). Regardless of a thing’s inherent practicality, enjoyment, benefit, or any other factor, if it isn’t framed and presented in a fun way, it will never stick.
Therefore, instead of preaching the benefit of a prepared lifestyle, teach them how much fun it is to do prepper things. Want them to gain the benefit of food storage? Take them on a “shopping trip” in the garage and make cookies for breakfast out of the dried fruit and flour you find. Want them to learn about survival gardening? Start with the ultimate kid’s crop – sunflowers. Even teen boys will love growing flowers if you remind them that they are excellent presents for the young ladies they desperately want to win over. If you want them to learn survival skills, print out a hiking bingo sheet, and have them follow you on a short half-mile hike into the woods, increasing in length as they grow older. Camping in the woods is a scary proposition for many kids, but few object to camping in the backyard, especially when bribed with s’mores.
For myself, I vividly remember the allure of having a pocket knife. My dad made me earn mine: I had to chop veggies for dinner with regularity, whittle a passable tool with his knife, and feather wood for a fire. I practiced for a summer, and after (eventually) demonstrating knife safety, I was given a choice of a few very small knives to begin my collection. This memory has stayed with me, and while I lost the knife long ago, I remember how having such a tool made me feel, and it did open my young mind to the possibility of fun outside of the television and backyard games.
Finding this niche while young was, I believe, quite essential, and while my Dad was no prepper, I think he helped turn me to this field of knowledge with this important lesson he taught.
Youngsters (let’s say 11 and younger) are much easier to work with than teens. You need to expose them to a wide variety of experiences so that they can find the hook that draws them in. I spent a full summer practicing to earn my knife, while my own daughter could care less about this privileged.
Regardless of what you think about their politics, The Boy Scouts of America and Indian Princesses are two very worthwhile organizations for your children to join when young. You don’t need to do too much in terms of fund raising if you are OK with ponying up some cash, and if you have a good organization, they’ll teach kids and motivate them to explore learning about first aid and many survival skills at an early age. Nature camps are available in most suburbs, and if yours is any good, this can be a great option, as are sleep-away camps, where youngsters will finally have the opportunity to fend for themselves in a very supervised environment for a while, and perhaps come back with a love of the outdoors if you’re lucky. Taking them to events with your local park district or zoo is also a good way to teach a variety of skills, from archery to animal husbandry. There are dozens of books for young children that are about surviving the wilderness (see Hatchet by Gary Paulsen for the most famous of these). Even movies can be a good intro, and you literally cannot find a Disney movie that doesn’t have some bent towards practicality or preparedness.
Teens are easier than they seem (I teach high school and raised three of them, so I can make bold claims like this). I think that the problem that most parents find themselves in is that they let their teens go too soon and too often, or they hold on too tightly. Balance is essential. You might read into the “parenting style” section and think that I rule with an iron fist, but you’d be surprised with what I let my teens get away with.
Kids legitimately want to talk to you, and most want to get to know you, but are sometimes drawn to talking with specific parents about specific issues. My daughter will talk with me about her boyfriend issues, and my wife is left completely in the dark, just as I know almost nothing about what happened at soccer practice or which of her friends has a boyfriend. When we are together, nobody gets to know anything about her life, other than that school is “stupid” and she did “nothing” with her friends. Each of us fills a role for advice in her life, and neither of us, when together can cross over to the other side. Together, I cannot know anything about her social life outside of boys, while Mom cannot know about boys, so there is literally nothing we can talk about together.
One of the reasons that I think we have such a special relationship with her is that we planned very specific separate trips and activities with her. I took her on a cross-state driving trip to attend a soccer camp, and we spent a good 16 hours together in a car over the few days that she was gone, which is when I was finally allowed into her life space. My wife planned a similar vacation, and in each case, it has led to fun follow-up activities. She asked me about guns, and I took her to a shooting range (shh…Mom doesn’t know yet!). Mom brought her on a less educational trip to the spa. These kinds of trips have encouraged her sharing policy, but they are not the reason for it – this is how teens are wired (I know from my students). Specific people can learn about specific things.
It is also essential to allow your kids to be out and on their own ,and get in trouble to find a way out. My kids know that I am a good safety net, and that I’ll bail them out when things get too scary or dangerous, but we allow them to have a wide range of freedoms when it is their time. I let my son build a bonfire in my backyard once he could demonstrate the ability to safely start a fire. One of my other sons has had a few run-ins with police, and I let him suffer natural consequences. That’s a good thing for kids sometimes, and will teach them how to adapt to changing and unexpected circumstances quite quickly.
As children grow older, they will inevitably leave things behind, and the prepper interests you have cultivated may be among them. What’s great about growing older though, is that while those skills may fade, or be forgotten and left behind, that makes them ripe for nostalgia moments. Nostalgia, when older, makes everything you did as a child seem ten times more fun and adventurous than it once was, and may prompt more serious conversations when your young adults start to come back into the fold. “Remember when we went hiking and you showed me how to purify stream water, Dad?” Yes, I most certainly do, and apparently, my son remembered as well, and I took him out for the same experience later in the month, and he now has his own kit stored in his backpack.
As children grow older and make plans to move away, that is the ideal time to introduce them to the basics of true preparedness. When they get a car, make part of the privilege of borrowing your car be that they must also take a basic auto mechanic class. If they want to start attending parties, they need to learn basic first aid skills so that they can take care of someone suffering from alcohol poisoning, or someone so drunk that they fell down the stairs. Phrasing it like this is important – it makes the learning more real. When they choose their major at college, you can encourage practical skills that lead into a career instead of paying for courses in Basketweaving, Stress Relief or South African History. Part of their college packing should include a get-home bag, complete with emergency chargers, a first aid kit, and hidden away somewhere secret, a few small bills. When they eventually graduate and move to an apartment, they can then learn about food and water storage.
Nurturing a new generation of preppers is difficult, and it’s time consuming, but continuing the cycle is a sure way to ensure that all your own preparedness is going to lead to something, If you truly want and need your family to stay safe, then this is the next step.
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