At times, those of us who write about prepping, seem to do so from a bit of an idealistic viewpoint. Granted, we're writing about things that may happen and our theoretical answers to them. But even taking that into account, what we write can seem like it ignores the realities of most people's lives.
I assure you, this isn't intentional; at least not in my own writing. I'm a very practical person and I look at prepping, like everything else in my life, in practical ways. However, I'm sure that I have just as much of a tendency to write about my own situation, rather than your situation, as anyone. So I may miss some concerns of others, which aren't concerns of mine.
This propensity arose in a recent conversation with someone in New York City. To me, living where I do, my EDC includes a concealed pistol. So, when I was reviewing their EDC, I mentioned that the only weapon they had was a folding knife. Knowing that they couldn't get a concealed carry license, I suggested a taser or pepper spray. But those are illegal in New York as well; leaving law-abiding citizens helpless at the hands of criminals, unless they know martial arts.
Another area I have been known to ignore I children. That's not intentional; it's just that my children are grown up and married. So when I talk about things like bugging out, I'm thinking of my wife, our dog and I. We don't have the problem of bugging out with children. But on the other hand, I do include children in my prepping plans. After all, I expect to have grandchildren some day.
Children are a challenge in a survival situation. Not only are they incapable of taking care of themselves, but small children can't really do much to contribute to the group's survival. If anything, they take away from the group's survival possibilities, simply because of the extra effort needed to take care of them.
But that's what we adults do, take care of kids; and I'm sure that we would all agree that in a survival situation, taking care of our kids is a top drawer priority. We're willing to risk our own lives for them, to the point where most would run into the face of danger for their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, perhaps even a stranger's child.
So how do we make sure that our children are taken care of in a crisis situation? While we're at it, what about others who can't take care of themselves, or whose ability to take care of themselves is limited? Many of us have elderly parents or grandparents who need to be part of our plan. We might have a disabled family member to consider. Those are special challenges we need to take into consideration too. But for now, let's concentrate on kids.
Kids and OPSEC
The words "kids" and "OPSEC" don't really belong together. Secrets are a big deal to kids. They're such a big deal, that they have to tell someone. So telling kids anything, just means that they are going to tell someone else. That will probably just be one of their friends, but it might just as easily be a teacher.
Now, I've got nothing against teachers, my wife and one of my daughters are teachers. But teachers work for the government, so they have to do what the government says. If the government tells them to ask their kids which of their parents have guns, you can be sure that the teachers will follow through and ask the question. They have to.
So the best thing to do, if you don't want anyone else to know, is to make sure that your kids don't know. That's basically impossible, as they live in the same house and are rather curious to boot. But there's a difference between them seeing a room full of food and us telling them that the room full of food is to help get us through the financial collapse that's coming.
There are ways of telling kids things, without making it a big deal. There are also ways of telling them things, without telling them the whole truth. You want to be careful here, as you don't want to start lying to your kids. When you do that, they learn not to trust you. But there's a difference between telling them something and telling them everything.
Take gardening for example. Many preppers have a vegetable garden. That's great. Even better is getting the kids to work in the garden with you. Their young backs can stand bending over to plant and weed, much better than we can. But just because you have a garden and just because your kids are working it with you, doesn't mean that you have to tell them that the garden is there to provide food, just in case of a disaster.
Let the kids think that you have a garden because you like fresh produce. Let them think that you raise chickens because you like the taste of your homegrown eggs better than those in the supermarket. Let them think the swimming pool you bought is so that they can have fun, and not as an emergency water tank. There's no reason why these things can't serve two purposes; so they only need to know one.
The same can be said for training. Your kids don't need to know that the reason you've taught them to shoot is so that they can help with home defense. It's enough that they're shooting. Nor does it help them to know that the reason why you've taught them 20 ways to start a fire is for survival. Let them think it's just something you've done for fun. Let them draw their own conclusions and those conclusions probably won't have anything to do with prepping.
Kids and Survival Training
Anyone who has been around the prepping movement for long knows the value of learning survival skills. Countless books and articles have been written about everything from starting a fire by rubbing two dry clichés together, to getting water out of a rock (maybe I'm exaggerating just a bit there). You can throw homesteading skills in there too, as well as the craftsmanship of our ancestors, making things without all our modern technology. The common thought is that knowing the right survival skills trumps having a stockpile the size of a football stadium any day.
While I'm joking about that a bit, every one of those skills is useful. If a catastrophic event were to happen, those with those skills are the ones who have the greatest chance of survival, as well as knowing how to kick-start society once again. While blacksmithing or weaving might be "cute" today, if an EMP were to strike, those would become essential skills for the community.
But what about our kids? Do they have the necessary survival skills to survive on their own? What if one of them were to get lost in the mountains; could they survive until the rescuers found them? Could they signal for help, so that the rescuers could find them easier?
For most, the obvious answer to these questions is "No." But that's not to say they couldn't learn. The reason why most kids don't know these essential skills, is that nobody is teaching them. Whereas a 10 year old boy who lived 100 years ago was expected to bring in the wood and start the fire in the morning, most of us won't even trust our kids with a match to light the candles on a birthday cake, let alone start a fire.
So, how do you teach your kids these skills? Simple, take them camping. You know, it's amazing how many basic survival skills can be found in the old Boy Scout's Handbook. That's because the handbook I grew up with was concerned with making men out of boys, not whatever the current version is all about.
Camping is modern man's substitute for survival living. I'm not talking about camping in a $40,000 recreational vehicle, but camping in a good, old-fashioned tent. Doing that gives you the chance to practice many of the same survival skills that you'll find in the Boy Scout Handbook, and all those survival handbooks we love to buy.
There's something about getting kids out in the wild that makes them want to learn. Take them camping and they're suddenly full of questions. Surprisingly, most of those questions lead directly into survival lessons. You can teach them how to track, build snares, fish, make a fire, build an emergency shelter, find and purify water, stay dry during a rainfall, find edible plants, splint a fracture with natural materials, make cordage out of grass and a host of other useful survival skills. And all they're going to tell their friends is about the cool camping trip they went on.
But there's more to teaching kids survival, than what you're going to be able to teach them while camping. What about all those homesteading skills and ancient crafts? If you're learning them, teach them to your kids too. Many will find those things fascinating and will want to learn. Even the reluctant ones will find things about the homesteading lifestyle that appeal to them.
The other day, I had a shade-tree mechanic over at my house, replacing the engine on my car. I was pleased to see that he brought his two sons with him and that he was teaching them his trade, as he worked. They were there to help, but they were also there to learn. That's something my generation grew up with, which I rarely see any more.
So if you're learning to blacksmith, teach your kids to do so as well. If you're planting a garden, make sure they can tell the difference between the peas and the squash. Make it chores or make it fun, but make sure they learn those valuable skills.
Kids and Survival Traveling
Anyone who has taken a long trip with their kids knows that traveling with kids is a challenge fit to try anyone's patience. Sitting still in a car for hours at a time, just doesn't fit in with a child's metabolism. They need to be moving about, running, playing and being active; not sitting and looking out a window. All that sitting is almost like torture for them.
But traveling on foot with kids isn't any better. While kids have a lot of energy, they don't have a lot of strength or stamina. That means that if you're bugging out on foot, your kids are going to have trouble keeping up. You'll need to travel slower and plan more rest stops, just so that they can keep going.
If you can make ten miles a day, with your kids walking, you're doing good. That's about all you can expect from them. That is, that's all you can expect from them if you don't get them conditioned to walking farther. You can increase a child's stamina, just like you can increase an adult's stamina, by regular exercise. So, don't let your kids spend too much time in front of a television or computer screen, get them outside, running around.
You should also condition them to carry a pack. While there's no way that you can expect a child to carry their "fair share" of the load, you can expect them to carry a pack with some clothes, a little bit of food and some basic survival gear. That way, they're covered if you get separated. How big that pack will actually be will depend on the child's age and strength.
Some children, especially small children, will need to be carried, rather than to carry. This means you need something to carry them in. I don't recommend that you carry them yourself, but rather that you come up with something that can carry them. If you have to carry them, it will just make you more tired.
What do I mean by something to carry them? Anything that you can push or pull by your own power, which they can sit in. it could be a jogging stroller, a two-wheeled cart, or something special that you make. Be sure to take into consideration the terrain that you're going to have to cover, when you pick out what's going to carry your kids. Then take the time to test it out, going over the worst parts of the trail, to see how well your kid caddy works.
Kids and Stockpiling Supplies
On the surface, children need the same survival supplies that the rest of us do. But when you dig deeper, you find that they have their own needs. Some of which are quite specific to their age and stage of growth.
First of all, look at the things you normally keep on hand, just for your kids. If you have babies, that's going to be a pretty long list. Decide now, which of those items you really need, and which you can do without. You may not need scented baby wipes, being able to use a washcloth instead. But don't try getting by without baby powder, our your baby will end up with a rash.
There are also things which we use in our modern culture, which can be substituted with what our grandparents used. Disposable diapers are a great convenience, but cloth ones work just as well. Besides, cloth diapers are cheaper, and they last just about forever. So, don't stockpile a semi-trailer load of disposable diapers for your baby, buy a hundred cloth ones instead. Don't forget the plastic pants and safety pins too (and lots of baby powder).
When thinking about kids and stockpiling, we always need to remember one detail about them; they grow. That means we need to be ready for that growth. The clothes they are wearing today, won't fit them next year... for that matter, they may not fit next month.
So, you're going to need to have clothes for your kids to wear, as they grow. That's not something that most of us do. We have the clothes our kids need now, but no more. So this is going to require a change. We're going to have to start buying clothing ahead, so that we always have the next size or two larger than what they are currently wearing.
My wife is an expert garage-sale shopper. When our children were little, she'd always keep her eyes peeled at the garage sales for quality clothing and shoes for our children. She not only bought what they needed at the time, but bought the next couple of sizes larger. Those larger clothes were boxed up and put away, ready for the time that the kids grew into them. In this way, we always had clothes for them. Actually, we always had more clothes than they could wear.
But clothing is not the only thing that kids outgrow. They outgrow their schoolbooks too. Since part of our responsibility as parents is to educate our kids, we need to take that into consideration too. What do we do to educate our kids in the case of a major event that disrupts society, including the school system? Eventually things will recover and our children will need the education that they missed.
For those that homeschool their children, this isn't that big an issue. All they need to do is to be prepared to go beyond this year's education. But for others, a survival situation may mean having to educate your kids at home. Don't worry, it's not that hard, especially when your children are young.
Let me give you a little secret here, you can buy used school books, either those used in the public schools or those used by homeschoolers, for bargain-basement prices. That means you can have the basics of what you'll need to keep educating your kids, without having to spend the normal fortune on schoolbooks. My wife and I homeschooled our three children, and we did it on a tight budget, almost exclusively with used books.
Another thing you need to consider is children's eating habits. As adults, we can push ourselves to eat survival food that we might not normally touch. But that doesn't mean we can push our kids to do the same. Unless you want every meal to become a battle, you need to have food that your kids are going to want to eat.
No, I'm not saying to buy a bunch of junk food here. Rather, you want to find or develop recipes that your kids will find palatable. If you're going to give them grilled squirrel for dinner, make sure that the squirrel is seasoned and flavored to their taste. That's the only way you can guarantee they will eat it.
I've found four secrets to kids food, which are highly applicable in a survival situation:
- Kids will eat just about anything that's cut into nuggets and breaded, especially if they can dip it in sauce.
- You can make just about anything taste however you want, if you add enough spices. Some particular flavors, like taco seasoning and ranch dressing work for just about anything.
- Ketchup and spaghetti sauce will cover up the taste of just about anything, making it taste like spaghetti.
- If it's sweet, kids love it. That makes honey one of your best food investments for your kids. Better yet, get a bee hive and let your kids learn about bees making honey.
Finally, kids tend to get sick and hurt, much more frequently than adults do. Part of this is the normal growing process, part of this is their curiosity, part is lack of caution and part is just being exposed to pathogens for the first time. They get sick because their immune systems are still learning how to battle off those pathogens.
So, make sure that you have a very complete first-aid kit, as well as lots of over-the-counter drugs. When your kids get their scraped knees and sniffles, you want to be ready to take care of them. There's nothing worse than looking at your child hurt, and not be able to do anything for them.
Kids and Guns
I don't want to conclude this article, without talking about kids and guns; for that matter, kids and any sort of weapons. Pretty much all preppers recognize the need for owning weapons is an essential part of survival. It really doesn't take much to get people to the point of desperation; and once they do, they're likely to do anything. That anything can be dangerous.
But there are people who have legitimate concerns about kids and guns. Sadly, every year there are cases of children getting their hands on a parent's gun and shooting a playmate or sibling with it. But these situations all have one thing in common, the kids in question aren't familiar with guns.
My mother, who hates guns, was smart enough to realize this danger, as well as the solution to it. When my dad started bringing guns into the home, she insisted (rather forcefully, I might add) that he teach my brother and I to shoot. It wasn't that she wanted us killing anything; it was that she wanted us to understand the danger of guns and how to use them correctly. This is ultimately the greatest protection against children having accidents with guns.
We have to understand that guns are fascinating to children. They see their heroes on the television use guns to vanquish the bad guys, even though those bad guys have guns too. Naturally, they have a desire to follow in the footsteps of those heroes. So when they see a gun, they see it as something that will give them the power to be great. However, if they don't understand it, and all they have to go on is what they've seen on television, the end can be tragic.
But there's another reason t teach your children about guns; one that I feel is even more important. That is, those guns are an important survival tool. If we are going to teach our children to survive, then the ability to defend themselves has to be part of that training. Otherwise, we leave them vulnerable.
There are two ways that a gun is a survival tool; in defense and in feeding the family. In pioneering days, it was often the children who did the hunting for the family, not the man of the house. He was busy working, so if there was going to be any meat on the table, it was usually the kids who hunted it down and brought it home. Not only boys did this, but in some families, girls did too.
If you're anything like me, you want to protect your family. Part of that might mean that your defensive plan is to face off against the bad guys alone, while your family hides in the house. If that's your plan, I salute your guts, but not your wisdom. Wouldn't it be better to have four or five guns pointing at those bad guys, rather than just yours alone?
If your family knows how to shoot, they can help you defend your home, plain and simple. Now, that may not sound very manly and it may not sound very chivalrous, but it's very practical. No matter what, the bad guys are going to see the man of the house as the biggest threat and the number one target that they have to take out. So, if you're a man and you're reading this, you're the one who is going to attract the bullets. But there's nothing wrong with having some help shooting back. That way, you might just live through the situation.
In the Old West, families fought together. Dad was the main fighter, but mom was there reloading his guns for him. She might even take a shot or two herself, if the situation warranted it. The kids were the lookouts, usually up in the loft, trying to see where the Indians or outlaws were hiding. But as soon as Junior got big enough to strap on a gun, he was right there by his father's side, helping to fight.They fought that way, because it was practical; it gave them the biggest chance of winning. Should society break down to the point where you have to defend your home, that's the model you have to use. Teach your children. Then, when you need them, they'll be ready to help.