Guest post by Kris A.
My children are headed back to school, and because they attend public school, I’m constantly trying to figure out how to strike a balance between the security of our preps and keeping them up to speed with skills. So just how much should your kids know about your preps? I have kids ages 6-18, and here is my humble advice:
Up to age 4 or so—probably nothing. Of course, you’ll teach them about “stranger danger,” their address and phone number, the first and last names of their parents, and when to dial 911. Beyond that, though, don’t let them overhear the latest episode of “Doomsday Preppers.” It’ll just scare them.
I’d also recommend that you keep an ID card with contact information taped to the bottom of the baby carrier (or between the carrier and the cloth liner). An initiative called CHAD (Children Have An iDentity) was launched after a 13-month-old baby survived a major auto accident—but he was in his BABYSITTER’S car, and emergency personnel had no idea to whom he belonged or how to contact his family. Now emergency workers are trained to look for this information in or on car seats, so make it easy for them!
K-grade 2—Discuss food prep and storage and the most likely weather events in your area. They can help you slap-chop, dehydrate, and rotate your way through your food storage goals—especially in the summer and fall.
Scouting programs are great to start at this age, as they’ll learn some self-reliance in a fun atmosphere. If you keep firearms in your home, this is a good age to let your kids look at, touch, and ask questions about them under your strict supervision so there will be no mystery about them.
Kids this age should also know about the most likely emergency weather events in your area and what to do in such an event. Practice your fire drills at home, and make sure your kids know the closest helpful neighbor by name and face. We let the kids deliver a jar of jam or salsa every so often just to keep the neighbors’ faces fresh in their minds, as well as promote good will.
Grades 3-6—Discuss all of the above, plus financial preparations. We are talking about saving for a rainy day, and while they don’t necessarily need to know how much money we make, our kids have separate canisters for money they will donate, save, and spend for themselves.
When my youngest wanted a new toy, he hauled rocks from the garden for a dollar a bucket until he had enough money to buy it. Frugality and charity both begin in the home. This is a great age to help them learn some financial self-control and the value of work. When they get birthday or Christmas money, we help walk them through all their choices and consequences before they make a purchase. Ultimately, though, it’s their money, and when it’s gone, it’s gone.
We do a lot of camping, too, because it’s a fun family activity that lets us all practice our survival skills and spend quality time together.
Middle school—Add information about medical preps. Your local YMCA should offer a basic first aid class if your kids don’t participate in Scouting. Ours offers a babysitting certification course complete with infant CPR!
They should know where you keep the first aid kit at home and in the car, as well as be able to operate your fire extinguisher.
Fictional titles like Stephen Grant’s Gone series or Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet or Dogsong can help your 7-9th grader imagine an SHTF scenario on his own reading level, with strong characters close to his own age.
Operational security is paramount at this age, especially since your kids may have friends coming in and out for sleepovers. I kept going to the food storage closet only to find a group of boys had devoured (fill in the blank—fruit leathers, pickles, nuts, pretty much everything!).
High school—Move beyond the basics with information and training. Your high school student should be proficient with every firearm in your home. She should be able to locate and use all the medical supplies you’ve accumulated, change a tire, and cook for herself. Ideally, field-dressing game, gardening, and canning are also emerging skills.
If you’re having trouble getting your teenager excited about the stuff we “old people” find important, kids this age love Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games and Jonathan Mayberry’s Rot and Ruin series. In both, teenagers have to survive in a world without the modern conveniences your kids probably enjoy. I know, life without an iPhone truly is apocalyptic, but we managed to survive for many years without cell service! Girls will particularly enjoy Ally Condie’s series beginning with Matched, while boys might prefer Jonathan Mayberry’s vision of the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse. All are engaging, age-appropriate, thought-provoking, and fast-paced.
Some parents may cringe at the idea of letting kids read about this scenario, but remember, 17- and 18-year-old “kids” have endured basic training, fought and won wars, and lived through a world your kids can’t even imagine. Read one of these books together and discuss. You won’t regret it.
Adult children—everything. Let your adult kids know where you’ve hidden your goodies. Your college student should have a plan for getting home in a major emergency scenario and have a week’s worth of water/food in his or her dorm room. Your daughter, especially, should have a pocket knife, pepper spray, and a small medical kit in her purse. It’s too important not to.
Let’s face it—few of us will ever be completely self-reliant, but as parents our job is to raise kids who—eventually—won’t really need us anymore. That’s what I keep telling my 18-year-old, anyway.
Start now to make sure you are staying prepared.