When I look at what it means to be successful as a prepper or as a parent, all I have to do is look at my kids. The areas where I have failed present themselves on occasion. Usually, it’s through insult or injury. Sometimes both. But the successes also show up from time to time. When I watch the wheels turn as they figure out some challenges on their own, or build something with more skill and care than before, I realize that some hint of what I’ve passed on is actually sinking in.
I’m glad to be able to share what I know about survival and preparedness with my kids. And in doing so, I’ve written a book of preparedness projects designed to help build skills and the preparedness mindset. Now that doesn’t mean that I want or need the next Bear Grylls growing up in my back yard. But I do want to make sure that by the time they are ready to face the world they are actually ready. For the world.
Real Survival Skills Are Learned by Observation
Just take a look at the animal kingdom. The young pay close attention to their caretakers during those early years. Ears perk up at the sound of a footstep or an unfamiliar snap of a twig in the distance. Movements change and shift based on the weather or environment. Finding food that is edible and shelter that is secure are all examples of this learned survival behavior. Before every deer loses its spots, it must be able to survive on its own.
Our kids need the same guidance. We know the threats as adults and many would rather shelter a child than reveal some form of uncomfortable truth. About threats. About job security. About natural disasters. About personal health and hygiene. About basic needs like food and shelter. But a sheltered upbringing is different than providing shelter. Our kids watch us and learn from us every day. So it’s important to understand that in every moment we are looked up to as parents we also serve as teachers. The greatest thing we can teach begins with that same survival behavior – watch, listen, be mindful of your skills and your surroundings.
Be a Coach, Be a Teacher
I watch as my own kids grow and recognize what holds their attention. As parents, it is critical that we step up and seize these fleeting moments. A good coach or teacher can take a small spark and turn it into a roaring flame with just a little guidance and a fair amount of observation. So when that spark of interest presents itself, take time to engage as a parent and teach preparedness every chance you get.
Being prepared for your kids and teaching your kids to be prepared is all part of being a parent. Right? But few parents take advantage of this wonderful opportunity. We can’t be armchair coaches when it comes down to it. In some cases, it’s a matter of safety, like building fire or working with knives or firearms. In other cases, it’s a matter of sanitation, like food preservation or water filtration. So step in. Engage. You have an opportunity to observe and make corrections in a controlled environment every time you take advantage of a coaching opportunity or teaching moment. But you have to do it early on. Whatever the case may be, you can help them develop the skills they need to be successful, safe, and self-sufficient.
Hands-On Training Starts at Home
Prepping with kids is easier than you might think. It can be as simple as taking on a kitchen task, like canning fruits or vegetables. Or it can be a moderate skill, like learning how to catch fish and process the meat. And in some cases, you can ramp up the complexity by teaching navigation through geocaching, or wilderness survival through camping, or skill set development by performing some small engine repairs.
Building firearms is another skill that could hold much more weight in the near future. It’s not nearly as scary as you might think. A great weekend project is to assemble an 80 lower receiver with your child. You will need tools, patience, and focus.
The thing is, it’s not what you do – it’s how you present the information. It’s how you include them in the process. When you go about doing your daily tasks, look at them as survival skills. Repackage the mundane just like Tom Sawyer. Then, include your little ones in the process to explain why. Give them the gift of context. You can do this by taking on small guided projects, like in the Pint-Sized Prepper Project book now available on Amazon. It’s available for free download through June 29th and you can use it as a springboard to engage your kids. What it really boils down to is taking time to provide guidance. Don’t be afraid to explain and elaborate. Let them try it out or explore their own creativity and imagination. Kids are naturally curious when it comes to life skills and preparedness. Let them run the tool, handle the cutlery, string the line. There’s no limit to the possibilities here. Except for time.
Time is Always Running Out
From birth to the age of 18, you only have 936 weeks with your kids. This is a hard fact. But there’s more to it. By age 9, half of those weeks are gone. There’s a sweet spot somewhere in the middle where you have an opportunity to really kick it in high gear and share your knowledge of preparedness and survival. And with luck, most of it will take hold and inspire a child. All it takes is a campout or a shared experience in the garage or the kitchen. But it must be something shared.
It’s important to keep in mind that it’s never too early to prepare your kids with basic survival skills. All you have to do is look at the new mother teaching her little one “hot” near a campfire or cooktop. At that moment, a child makes a connection that will last a lifetime.
And it’s never too late. Even today, as an adult with teenage kids, I’m still learning. I’m learning from the elders around me and even a little bit from the next generation. To some who would listen, I am able to teach. And if I am willing to listen, I am able to learn.