When you read most of the information that’s written for survivalists these days, it almost seems like it’s written for a bunch of guys heading out to the wilderness alone. No wives, no kiddies, just a bunch of guys who are going to go play mountain man and then return back home when things return back to normal.
The only problem is, that’s not real.
The reality of the situation is that most people who are faced with a survival situation aren’t faced with it alone, but as a family.
They have their wives and kiddies to think about, which makes the task of survival much harder, but also gives us all that much more motivation to make it through and survive.
The good news is that people have been surviving with kids for millennia; and they didn’t have all the conveniences of modern society to use while doing so. If they were able to do so, then you and I can too. We just have to find ourselves ways to do things, where we can keep our children relevantly safe, while doing all the tasks we need to do in order to survive.
Kids are very adaptable.
In fact, they’re much more adaptable than their parents are. Granted, a child doesn’t have all the worries and concerns that an adult has, so perhaps it’s easier for them to adapt. But you can plop a child into pretty much any situation, and they will adapt to it. So, whereas an adult may complain about not having all the luxuries that they are accustomed to having in their lives, a child will look around, see what’s there and start playing with whatever they find.
The nice thing about that is that the parents don’t have to spend a lot of time helping them adapt to the situation. All they have to do is reassure them that mom and dad are with them and that everything is going to be all right. With that little bit of normalcy, the child will retreat into their world of play and be just fine.
For the parent who’s trying to survive with kids, there are a number of challenges to face. Children add to a parent’s responsibility in a survival situation, just like they do the rest of the time. They can get into things which can hurt them, just like they can the rest of the time. They need to be fed and cared for in a survival situation, just like they do the rest of the time. They even need love during a survival situation, just like they do all the time.
I hope you can see where I am going with this. While there are challenges associated with surviving with kids, they aren’t all that different than the challenges you have of making it through each and every day with your kids. The major difference isn’t that your kids are making it hard to survive, but rather the survival situation is making it hard on you. The kids are just along for the ride.
My one big concern when surviving with kids is their safety. Our children aren’t used to being put in a survival situation, so their natural curiosity is likely to put them into contact with things that aren’t safe. Children learn by exploring and they will explore a survival situation just like they will any other.
As parents, one of our responsibilities is to establish limits for our children, in order to keep them safe. Those limits may include what we allow them to do and what we don’t allow them to do. They may include areas where we say that our children can’t go. We will probably limit the distance that our kids can stray from our presence, in order to allow us to see what they are doing and what they are exploring. These are reasonable precautions, necessary to protect our children from the dangers of the world.
At the same time, we want them to explore and learn. Actually, the greatest protection we can give our children from danger is for them to learn. The more they know about things that are dangerous, the less likely they are to be hurt by them.
Let’s take a simple example from everyday life; the stove. When the stove is on, we all know it is hot. But a small child doesn’t know that it’s hot, what hot means or that hot can be dangerous. So, mommy tells the child not to touch the stove, because it’s hot. But that shiny red disk on the stove (assuming it’s electric) just looks so interesting, so inviting, so pretty. So, the child reaches its hand out to touch the red disk.
If mom is attentive to her child, this is where she sees what’s going on and grabs the child’s hand, swats it and says, “No!” The child cries for a moment, but they are still interested in that shiny red disk. They want to know what it is. So, they reach their hand out again, this time, when mom has her back turned.
It doesn’t matter how many times mommy stops that child from touching the stove, eventually they will manage to do it and burn their fingers. Their curiosity taught them a lesson; the lesson that shiny red things can be hot. Mom tried to teach that child a lesson, but the child didn’t have enough experience to assimilate the lesson that mom was teaching. So, they had to learn it the hard way.
Now, let’s alter the situation a bit. You were probably imagining a toddler as I went though that story. What if the child was 12 years old? How would the story change? While the child might not believe what mommy was saying, it would be much more circumspect in how it experimented to see if the stove really was hot. When it reached its hand out to the stove, it would do so slowly; not touching the stove, but feeling its heat. It had more experience, so it would have a better understanding of the lesson that mom was trying to make. In that case, the 12 year old child would learn enough from mom to avoid being burnt by the stove.
The same holds true in just about any situation. If you tell a toddler not to play with a snake, they may not understand the problem. But that 12 year old will. The learned experiences of the child make it easier to teach them new things and have them assimilate the lesson.
This ability to assimilate new lessons is critical in a survival situation. You can save a child a lot of pain by teaching them, if they are willing and capable of learning. Of course, some children may decide that they don’t want to learn the lesson you are trying to teach, simply because they want to find out for themselves. These strong-willed or rebellious children can be a problem in a survival situation, because they insist on learning things the hard way. In a sense, they are like the toddler, who doesn’t understand.
Children also have special needs, which must be considered in any survival situation. Those needs range from the need to be educated to the need to be entertained. Children have a naturally short attention span, so it’s hard to give them a project to do and expect them to stick with it. As a general rule of thumb, they will stick with it one minute for each year of age; that’s it.
In addition to disciplining children and helping them to learn, parents have the task of preparing their children to become adults some day. That means teaching them a myriad of things. It also means preparing them to be productive members of society someday. Regardless of the disaster which has thrust us into a survival mode, there will be an “after” one day, in which the world and our lives return to some semblance of normal.
One of the greatest challenges in surviving with children comes in the area of operational security. Children operate in the exact opposite of operational security. They are loud when they need to be quiet; they can’t keep secrets and they can’t deceive worth anything. This adds another challenge to the survivalist who is preparing to survive a disaster and doesn’t want the neighbors to know.
It is possible to teach children to operate under OPSEC, but it takes time and effort. One of the first things you should work on teaching them is to stay quiet when it is necessary to stay quiet. They can actually learn this from a very young age. Teaching them how to keep quiet can help keep them from becoming a target of attackers.
To teach a child anything, it’s best to make a game of it. Children naturally learn through play; so, if you can turn the lesson into play, they will learn easier. This can be done very easily with things like teaching them situational awareness. Simply make up a game where they have to notice things around them.
When it comes to keeping secrets, it’s best to use a little bit of misdirection, like an illusionist does. Don’t tell your child that something is a secret, but rather help them see it as something else. Your solar panels and wind generator don’t have to be about preparing to survive, in that child’s mind, they can be some really cool science experiments that you’re doing at home.
When trying to teach a child survival skills, take them camping. Those can then be camping skills, rather than survival skills. They will associate the skills of building snares, starting fires and purifying water with camping. But when they need those skills in a survival situation, they will be readily available to them.
I’m not saying that you should lie to your children. Lying to your child is a big mistake. It teaches the child that they can’t trust their parents. Then, when you tell them something important, they won’t believe you. However, some things can have two meanings, like those survival skills. Yes, they are survival skills, but many of them were taught in the Boy Scouts a generation ago. They weren’t survival skills then, they were camping skills. If they were seen that way then, they can be seen that way today as well.
The most important thing to teach your child for survival is obedience. The military teaches immediate, unquestioning obedience to orders. There’s a reason for that. That is, in a combat situation, the only thing that may keep people alive is to obey the orders that they receive. Granted, some of those orders will get people killed, but not as many as will be killed by lack of obedience.
The same applies in a survival situation. If your kids can’t obey you when things get hairy, they may end up dead and take you with them. Children have to be taught to obey and it’s up to parents to teach them.
In our modern society, we really don’t expect much from our kids. We expect them to act like… well, kids. In our minds, that means we expect them to play, goof off, try to avoid doing their homework and chores and get into trouble. Eventually we hope they’ll grow up and start acting responsible. But until then, we really don’t expect much from them.
Things haven’t always been that way. It seems that the more “civilized” a society becomes, the less we expect from our kids. In the Old West, where things were “less civilized” parents expected more from their kids. Children not only had to do their schoolwork, but had to help with the farm and do their chores as well. They were expected to be responsible, not expected to be in trouble. Those who didn’t do what they were supposed to were severely ostracized by society, with everyone expecting them to “come out bad” and not being afraid to say so.
While there were a few kids who would lionize these troublemakers, it was nothing like today. Those who looked up to troublemakers were themselves seen as troublemakers and suffered the same results. They would quickly lose any respect and be seen as nothing more than problems to the community.
One of the biggest problems these children faced was the loss of reputation. We don’t think much of our reputations today, but in those times one’s reputation was everything. One couldn’t do business of any sort without a good reputation. They couldn’t get a job; and they definitely couldn’t get any credit at the local general store.
By and large, children live up to their parents’ expectations. If the parents don’t expect much from them, then the children won’t do much. But when the parents expect a lot from a child, the child strives to fulfill those expectations. A loving parent’s approval is much more important to a child than the approval of their friends. That makes it the greatest weapon against peer pressure that there is.
My parents well understood this principle. One of my consistent memories of childhood was my parents’ lack of approval when I would bring my report card home. They knew my potential and expected me to reach it. They were goading me on by telling me that my report cards weren’t good enough. It took some time, but ultimately that drove me to excel.
Today, many people have accepted our society’s idea that it’s okay that our children don’t accomplish much. So much of our educational system today is focused on making sure that the losers don’t feel bad, that there is no incentive for the winners. Unfortunately, there are very few parents pick up the slack and give their children the incentive that they need to overcome the problems which society are trying to put on those kids.
If we expect our children to be survivors, we need to expect more of them. We can’t go along with society’s destruction of our children, trying to make them dependent upon big government to take care of them. We need to make them see their true potential and then motivate them to reach it.
In the Bible, we find an interesting story of Jesus as a child. This is the only place in Jesus’ childhood that is mentioned. Otherwise, the Bible is silent about his life, from his birth, until he is 30 years old. But this one story, found in the second chapter of the gospel of Luke, talks about Jesus at 12 years of age.
It’s interesting that these events happened when Jesus was 12, because in the Jewish culture a boy would have their Bar Mitzvah at 12. That’s a celebration when they pass from childhood to adulthood. Today, Jewish boys still celebrate this custom, giving a speech at the party, which always starts out with the line, “Today I am a man…”
What do you expect of your child when they are 12? Do you expect them to be a man? In the time of Jesus, they were expected to accept the responsibility of adulthood at that age. Boys would start to apprentice and learn a trade at that point, no longer being mere children, but taking responsibility for their own lives.
The story I’m referring to is when Jesus was left behind in Jerusalem, when he had gone there with his parents as part of one of the Jewish celebrations. It wasn’t until they had traveled a full day that the parents realized that Jesus wasn’t with their group of fellow travelers. So, the parents returned to Jerusalem and searched for their son for three days.
During the five days that Jesus was alone in Jerusalem, he had to feed himself, find a place to sleep and stay out of trouble. When his mom and dad finally found him, they found him at the temple, talking to the experts in the Jewish law; not hanging out with some gang on the street.
There is nothing in the story to suggest that Mary and Joseph were surprised that their son had been able to take care of himself those five days. After all, he’d already had his Bar Mitzvah and was a man. He should have been able to take care of himself. But what about us? What about our kids? Could they take care of themselves for five days in a strange town? Not only that, when we finally found them, would we find that they had made good use of the time to further their education? Or, would we find them behind bars at the local police station?