I’ve written before on how to train your kids for survival and how to get them “on board” with your survival prepping. But all that’s before a disaster happens. What do we do with them when the brown stuff hits the rotary air movement device and we’re suddenly up to our eyeballs in problems?
There’s a Bible verse somewhere that says, “children are a joy and a blessing,” or at least that’s how my mother always quoted it. She didn’t quote it to us kids to tell us that we’re a blessing or that she was happy with us, but the opposite. Actually, I think she was quoting it to herself, as a reminder, when she was feeling that we were the opposite of that joy and blessing.
While most of us would agree with the truth of that phrase, I think we would also recognize the validity of my mother’s use of it. No matter how much we love our children; there are times when we might momentarily think that they are more trouble than they are worth. This can happen through no fault of their own, when we are in a difficult situation and taking care of them makes the situation just that much harder to deal with.
So why do I bring this up? I do so because it could be very easy to have that sort of an attitude during a survival situation. When everything has gone to hell and we’re just barely managing to hang on, it could be very easy to start looking at others as liabilities, especially those in our families who we feel a responsibility to take care of.
Such thoughts could easily lead to bitterness and bitterness to some sort of wrong action. I remember reading a fictional work about a post-apocalyptic world, and one of the many things that stood out in that story is how many men abandoned their family, when they came to the point of thinking that they could survive better on their own. I guess you could say, “At least they didn’t kill them,” but didn’t they do just that? Didn’t their abandoning of their families consign them to death?
Regardless of what sort of survival team you might belong to, your family is your core survival team. You and they come as a package deal, with both the good and the bad mixed together. Don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise. The thing to do though, is to make your core team be as good as it can be.
Kids in a Survival Situation
So, what are the problems associated with having children along in a survival situation? I can think of several:
- By definition, children need to be taken care of. That means expending time, energy and resources on them.
- Children get tired faster when walking or doing other necessary activities.
- Children are not as strong.
- Most children don’t have skills to offer the team.
- No matter how hard they might try, children can’t offer as much to the team as what they consume.
- Children are more susceptible to attack by wild animals, who will normally go after the young, sick and weak.
- Children are more susceptible to sickness.
- Children grow, meaning that you have to constantly provide them with new, larger clothing.
- Children are noisy, not stealthy.
- It is easy for children to get bored; they have shorter attention spans.
But on the other hand, children are the future. If there is going to be any future in a post-disaster world, it will belong to them. That one thing trumps all the potential problems that children can cause. So we need to figure out how to make the best of having our children along in a survival situation, and in showing them how to make the most of it too.
This means that we need to make accommodations for them in our survival planning, including such things as planning for their education and training. Any bug out plans must take into account their limitations, we must stockpile enough for their needs and our food production must be efficient enough to cover their needs as well.
Making Them Part of the Team
For almost a century now, child labor laws have been in existence here in the United States, protecting children from having to work, so that they can go to school. Before that time, children throughout most of the world worked, and even today, children still work in many countries.
What made this seem cruel treatment of children in our western society is using children as labor in factories. Somehow, the image of children sitting at sewing machines or putting parts together seems much worse than children herding sheep or working on the farm. But farm work is probably more physically demanding than any factory job and as any farmer can tell you, they work long hours.
While I’m not advocating repealing child labor laws, I am trying to say that they have no place in a survival situation. If your family is trying to survive, then your children need to be part of that effort. That means having them participate in necessary tasks such as gardening, taking care of animals and starting the fire.
Actually, these are essential skills that you need to pass on to your children anyway. So having them take part in working alongside you is a good way of teaching them. Some things are best taught in a classroom; but there are others that are best taught by getting your hands dirty.
As children grow, they can be taught more skills and given greater responsibility. This was an important part of a family’s financial growth in olden times. Farmers with large families could accomplish more as their children grew and took on more responsibility. That led to greater prosperity for the family, which ultimately helped the children as well.
Many of what we would call more primitive societies formalized this process of children growing and gaining more responsibility. In the first chapters of Alex Haleys’ famous book “Roots,” he described the birthplace of his ancestor, Kunta Kinte. Kinte’s tribe had a highly formal plan which they used in the raising of their sons and daughters, with specific responsibilities given to them at certain ages. For example, from 11 to 13, they would watch over the family’s goats, which were a source of milk, as well as meat.
We don’t have such a system in place today, mostly because the wealth in our society allows us to protect our children from having to work. But when we are all forced to get our food by returning to an agricultural based society, it only makes sense to include our children in the process.
Keeping your children involved in the work necessary to survival does something else that’s very important, it keeps them occupied. Children who are bored tend to do two things: whine and get in trouble. You don’t need either. The work of growing plants, feeding the chickens and gathering eggs will definitely help keep them from getting bored, allowing them to take pride in being a productive member of your family.
Having a child work in such circumstances isn’t cruel, it’s a practical reality. But at the same time, you need to put some limits on the work that you have them do. Some tasks will be too dangerous for a child to perform; others will require too much physical strength. Limiting what they are doing to things that are practical at their age will help to protect your children.
Besides, children who are busy are much less likely to get into trouble. They won’t be wining as much, nor will they be likely to do things that they shouldn’t. Rather, they will learn valuable life skills, as well as responsibility and a good work ethic.
Give Them Ownership in Their Work
One great way to motivate your children to work responsibly is to give them ownership in their work. You can do this easily, either by giving them specific chores that are their responsibility and which the whole family will benefit from or by giving them their own area to be responsible for, within a shared labor.
Being responsible for collecting eggs from the chicken coop and feeding the chickens is a perfect example of the former method. Not only that, but it’s a traditional task for children to do. They enjoy the discovery of finding the eggs and seeing how many the chickens have laid in the last day. It helps the family, in that they are the ones making sure that there are eggs for the table.
One example of the second would be to give each child their own garden bed in your family vegetable garden. You could allow them to choose what they are going to plant, and do all the necessary maintenance of their own bed. That way, they would see the results of their work, recognizing that they are making an actual contribution to the family’s survival.
You want them to learn to take pride in their work, because the pride itself becomes a motivator. One of the problems in the workplace today, is that people are lacking in that pride. So they don’t put the effort necessary into their jobs. In a survival situation, that attitude could mean that someone doesn’t eat.
Education and Training
While you will be training your children in some necessary life skills by having them work with you on the homesteading part of your survival plan, that isn’t the only education they need. It’s easy to think in terms of a post-apocalyptic world as being one where we resort back to living like they did in the 1800s, but in reality there will be people working to restore the technology we will have lost. A modern education will still be a necessity, if our children are going to be able to help bring that about.
Their need for an education is even stronger if the recovery from the disaster takes only a few years, rather than decades. Leaving their education aside for those few years of recovery would definitely have lifelong consequences for them as they would never have the education and knowledge that they would need for a responsible job.
So how do we handle this? There are actually a few things that we should do.
First, we need to teach them the survival and homesteading skills that I was talking about in the last section. No matter what happens in a post-disaster world, they’ll need to be prepared to take care of themselves. You won’t be there for them forever and when you are aging, they will have to take a lot of the load from you.
Secondly, we should give them a general education. Since there is a strong possibility that the public and private schools will be closed, that means that we’re going to have to homeschool them. So we’ll need the books and other materials that are normally needed for homeschooling.
History will be a very important part of this education, especially the history leading up to the disaster. As the saying goes, “Those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it.” So the only protection for the future we will be able to offer our children is that of teaching them the mistakes our generation made. But there’s another important reason for teaching them history; that is to give them an identity. Without a solid connection with our nation’s past, we have trouble identifying who we are.
Just look at what the revisionist history that the liberals love so much is doing to our college students. They don’t identify themselves as Americans and aren’t proud of our country. Rather, they look down upon our country and praise socialism. That could eventually be out country’s undoing.
If you are not currently homeschooling you should look into it at least enough to understand how to go about it and where to find the necessary resources. Your local library is a great resource and may very well be the source of your textbooks in that post-disaster world. But even if you don’t have access to any textbooks, you need to teach them. How? By teaching them everything you know.
Teaching everything you know includes teaching them the knowledge associated with your profession. While not all professions will be needed in a post-apocalyptic world, all of the technical ones, building trades and other hands-on skills will be needed. As a society we can’t afford to have that knowledge lost, as it will be an essential part of the restoration process.
There’s a third category of things we should teach our children; and that’s lost skills. I know a little about machining, a valuable skill for rebuilding the technology we use in our modern world. But in reality, that’s going to be an almost useless skill in a post-disaster world; not because it won’t be needed, but because until we have sufficient electricity, it will be impossible to use the machinery found in a modern machine shop.
On the other hand, blacksmithing, which I also know a smattering of, will be a very useful skill, simply because it doesn’t require any electrical power. The power used in blacksmithing is a combination of fire and muscle power. So it is something that can be done immediately, even without the grid being back online.
Of course, a lot will depend on the type of world we find ourselves in, after the disaster, and that will depend a lot on what sort of a disaster strikes. I tend to think worst-case in my planning, so I think of events that would cause a total breakdown of society and the infrastructure as we know it, such as an EMP attack would do. That way, I’m ready for any lesser event that might happen.
Children and Home Defense
We cannot look at a post-disaster world, without taking into account the dangers that will exist. As much as we would all like to protect our children from even knowing that those dangers exist, doing so would just increase the danger to them. So we need to make them aware, as well as teaching them what to do in the case of those dangers appearing.
Just as it is important for us to develop situational awareness, we need to teach it to our children as well. In some ways, this is actually easier then teaching it to adults, because a child’s natural curiosity will cause them to look around and question. They haven’t yet learned to live life looking at the ground or at their cell phones.
Teaching situational awareness to them is mostly about playing games that force them to look around them. Being the first to spot a particular color car on the road or deer crossing the road is a great way of training them in seeing what is around. So is making them pick a particular items out of a landscape. A million different versions of these games can be played, made up on the spot and all used for the end goal of training them.
That awareness is an important skill to learn and one which will help children be an important part of your family’s home defense. While children can’t and shouldn’t be involved in the fight itself, they can serve as lookouts. This was common in the Old West, especially for families living alone on homesteads. Whenever they were attacked by Indians, the children would go up in the home’s loft, looking out through chinks in the wall and trying to find where the Indians were hiding.
That information would be yelled down to mom and dad, fighting below. Typically the man would do the fighting, firing through loopholes in the walls and gaps in the window shutters. His wife was there behind him, reloading his guns and handing them to him. In this way, the whole family would be involved in the fight, greatly enhancing the ability of the man of the house to defend them.
As children got older, they would take a more active role in the home’s defense, especially the boys. They would be trained in the use of guns and if the family could afford it would have their own. That way, if the family home came under attack, there would be several men fighting off that Indian war party, not just one.
Children and Play
Childhood is probably the best time of life. The combination of everything being a new experience, having fun playing and the freedom from major responsibilities makes it a very special time of life. That is something that we shouldn’t rob from our children, even if life seems to be trying to do so.
Children need times of play to refresh and rejuvenate them. But play also has important purposes: On is that it is how they learn, doing a child-sized version of adult activities. Another is that it helps them relate to others, especially their parents. If you really want to get into the heart of a child, you can best do so by playing with them.
So even though you may find yourself in a survival situation with your family, you still need to find times to fit play into the schedule. I realize that may not seem as important as other parts of survival, but it is important to your children.
But play time doesn’t mean it has to be totally useless activity. My wife and I always provided our children with an abundance of educational toys; much more so than other types of toys. This helped in their mental and physical development, turning them into the adults they are today. My daughter has even commented on that, saying that she didn’t know what we were doing to her, by giving her educational toys to play with, until she grew up.
Here’s the problem we are going to face with this. Technology has become such a central part of our lives, that even our children’s play revolves largely around electronics. Yet those electronics probably won’t be working in a post-disaster world. If they aren’t fried by EMP, there may not be electricity to recharge them. Either way, those expensive electronic toys will become pretty much useless.
I’ve seen some writers recommend putting in a good stock of videos for the family to watch together. While there’s really nothing wrong with a family movie night, there’s no guarantee that will be possible, even if you have solar panels on your home. There’s no guarantee that your television or DVD player will still be working.
Besides, that’s just translating the same “stare at a screen” sort of “play” that we have today. It won’t help your children grow in any effective way. Nor will it teach them any valuable skills. All it will do is to occupy their time. Whoopee.
On the other hand, those movies can be a useful babysitter, if that’s all you are looking for. Children watching the television generally stay right there and don’t leave. This would be especially true if you rationed television due to power shortages (either real or made up). If all they get is one movie or movie equivalent every three days, you can bet they’ll stay there and watch it.
Personally, I think that’s an advantage, as it will force children into old school play. Running around outside, building with blocks or Legos and playing with dolls. All the things I grew up with, that seem to be largely passing by the wayside.
Another important part of this sort of play is that it stimulates creativity. This is a necessary ingredient in the invention process, so we want our children to learn it. We will want that even more in a post-disaster world, where they may have to reinvent just about everything we use. Children who are used to visualizing things in their imagination are going to grow up into adults who know how to visualize things in their imagination. As a former engineer, I can’t overstate how valuable that is in the invention process.
As I mentioned earlier, children are the future. If all you are doing is trying to survive yourself, you are extremely short-sighted. Rather than that, we should be surviving for our kids, to ensure that they survive and grow up to lead productive lives.
If a major enough disaster occurs, we may never see life fully restored to what we are accustomed to. Rather, we will merely start the work, turning it over to our children to complete. How well we prepare them for this, during a time where society at large will be unable to do so, could have a profound impact on our nation’s future. But even at the least, it will have a profound impact on our children’s future and that’s enough.In order to make this possible, we have to be ready to prepare them. This might mean buying some things now, which seem like a poor investment. But in reality, they would be an investment in rebuilding the future of America, as well as an investment in our children’s lives.