If you’re already prepping, then you know that surviving a SHTF event is not a cake walk. In fact, there are no guarantees of survival, even for the most prepared prepper. Regardless of what type of event you are prepping for, chances are at least one of your reasons for doing it is to provide security and happiness for future generations.
Whether you are at the stage where you have children, grandchildren, or nieces or nephews, most of us realize children are the future. Without children, the world will cease to exist very quickly.
As a parent or grandparent, there’s nothing you won’t do to protect your children and grandchildren. Many of us know in our hearts that we will die to protect our children.
But even if you are prepared to die to protect your children, how do you know that sacrifice will be worth it? And have you thought about what happens next, after you’ve given your life for your children? Will your children survive SHTF without you?
The automatic response most parents, especially preppers, want to give is yes, absolutely. And it could be that you’ve been fortunate enough to set up a place that will remain off the radar of looters. But do your children know what they need to know to continue living off grid without you there to direct them? Do they know what to do to keep themselves warm, to put food on the table, and to keep livestock alive and healthy? And what about bugging out, will they be able to do it without you?
Or will they fall prey to adults who pretend to help them but then turn them into virtual slaves or worse? Throughout history, children have proven to be one of the most vulnerable populations.
Even in our world as it is today, children separated from their parents can end up begging on the streets for food, hooked on addictive substances, or even dead. As long as you are in this world, you can protect them the best you can, but what happens if illness, an accident, or a looter, takes your life after a SHTF?
Are you really sure that your children will survive SHTF without you?
Here’s What They Need to Know to Stand a Chance
When I think about teaching children to survive a SHTF event, it’s easiest for me to think of it in ever increasing circles starting with your child and moving outward. So first, you teach them how to take care of themselves including:
- How to dress to protect themselves against the elements (this can start when they are toddlers by reminding them to wear gloves, boots, raincoat, etc. and why it’s important)
- What to do if they are injured or sick
- Situational awareness
- Where food comes from (basic gardening, fishing, hunting)
- Ways to stay warm or cool in extreme weather.
- The importance of food and water for energy and health
- Which foods are high protein, high carbs, high antioxidants, etc. As toddlers this can be as simple as good foods and bad foods but as kids get older you can give them more information.
- Personal Self Defense
The next circle out includes how to interact and care for people and things other than yourself. Some kids will learn the inner circle tasks quickly and be ready to care for family, friends, & pets at a much earlier age.
Other kids will take more time to master the inner circle skills. If you’re two year old is ready to take on feeding the cat every day without you worrying about her eating the food herself, then by all means let her.
Toddlers & Preschoolers
This age group of children are obviously the most vulnerable when SHTF. If you are the parent or grandparent of kids under the age of five years old, now is the time to start training them to survive a SHTF event.
First and foremost, you need to teach young children the importance of staying calm and quiet when there’s trouble. If you’re there, you can help calm them but what if you aren’t there?
Very few people, if any, are going to want to take on the responsibility for young children that cry incessantly or who don’t obey adults as this puts the entire group at risk. With young children, you can make it a game of sorts, 1, 2, 3, everyone quiet. Reward them for staying calm and quiet until you or a trusted adult give the all clear.
Second, teach young children the importance of obeying trusted adults. This is tricky because you don’t want your kids to be trusting and obedient with strangers who might harm them.
But you do want young children to be obedient if they are left in the care of relatives or trusted members of your mutual assistance group because you are no longer there. If a trusted adult gives them a direction, such as run to the house and bring the first aid kit, they should be able to follow that.
Third, teach your kids the skills they will need to care for themselves if you aren’t there. Obviously, with kids this young you need to introduce them to age appropriate skills.
As you go about your daily routine, talk to kids about the weather and how to dress appropriately to protect themselves. Something as simple as “Look, it’s raining, let’s wear our raincoat so we can stay dry or even let’s see what the weather is like outside today, maybe we need our boots to keep our feet warm, etc”.
Teaching your kids to dress appropriately for the weather can start at a very young age and much of it will sink in through repetition and routine. My two and four year old grandchildren know that they need shoes and coats to go outside. My four year old grandson automatically stuffs his gloves into the sleeves of his coat so they don’t get lost. Skills like this will stick with them as they get older.
Elementary Age Kids (6 to 10 years old)
Kids from the age of six years old and up are like sponges. They soak up knowledge and skills. This is one of the best times to get kids excited and involved with chores and activities around the homestead.
First, if you started teaching them as toddlers, kids this age should already be instinctively dressing appropriately for the weather. Kids at this age should be able to look out and check the weather and wear or at least take appropriate clothing accessories.
They should know why it’s important to stay dry, to stay warm, or to stay cool and hydrated. Teach them when and why to wear sunscreen, bug repellent, build a shelter, etc.
Second, this age is the best time to get them more involved in daily chores around the house and homestead. Kids are differently abled as far as what they can and can’t do so you want to pick tasks that interest them but also skills that prove increasingly challenging.
If they’ve been following you around and helping with chores since they were toddlers, kids this age will be ready to take on more responsibility than if you are just starting to get them involved.
Even something as simple as feeding the cat or dog, collecting eggs from the chickens, or filling water troughs for livestock can teach children about the responsibility of taking care of living things.
Avoid stepping up and doing it for them if they forget, but instead remind them and have them complete the job. Use their forgetfulness as an opportunity to talk about the responsibility of feeding animals and what could happen if you don’t feed animals properly.
Third, make sure kids at this age understand the connection between the food on the table and the animals on the homestead. Get them helping in the garden or even give them their own small section of garden to plant, water, weed, and harvest.
As they are mature enough, teach them to drive the tractor or the farm truck around the property and have them help to maintain fluid levels, check tire pressures, etc. When you are making meals, canning food, dehydrating food and herbs, smoking meat and fish, explain to the kids what you are doing and why.
Tasks and Skills for Elementary Age Kids include:
- When to Obey Adults Without Questions and When Not to
- How and When to contact relatives or friends for help
- Basic First Aid Treatment for injuries, trauma, weather exposure illnesses
- How and when to hide or run
- Weather Observation and Patterns
- How to recognize gunfire and what to do
- Where and how to access family supply caches
- How to identify dangerous people
- How to read a map, identify landmarks, and navigate with or without a compass
- First Aid using herbal medicines
- Bartering and Negotiation
- Basic sewing and stitching
- How to shoot a gun
- How to find or make cordage
- Fire Starting and Fire Safety
- How and Who to Ask for Help
- How to meet basic dietary needs
- Outdoor cooking (solar oven, campfire, etc.)
- How to build a basic shelter
- Food harvesting and storage techniques
- How to use a slingshot, bow & arrow, snares, traps
- How to fish and hunt
- Cleaning fish and small game
- Find and purify water
- Basic carpentry skills
- Knot Tying
- How to help to cull and butcher livestock
- Basic plant identification
Tweens & Teens
Kids at this age will be more difficult to get involved if you haven’t already begun training them. Kids who are currently tweens have grown up with technology and a sense of instant gratification.
They have always had a microwave, remote controls (now voice activated), cell phones, Google, etc. When SHTF, there will be very few tasks that will provide that instant gratification. Everything they need to do will take time.
In fact, kids will likely have to do without many of the amenities, running water, electricity, plumbing, garbage service, television, video games, etc.
If you have children who are this age and who have never had to go without their television or video game for a weekend or who have never used an outhouse, or who don’t realize that food doesn’t just magically appear on the table, you will have your work cut out for you. It’s up to you to bring them up to speed as quickly as possible if you want them to survive SHTF without you.
Extended camping trips are a great way to introduce tweens and teens to these kinds of skills. You can get them away from video games without it feeling like a punishment and get them out into the outdoors, experiencing the joy of nature.
Start with things that get them outside and are fun like fishing, hunting, hiking, even skiing while on vacation. For super resistant teens, let them bring a friend along. Talk about what could go wrong and what they could do to help themselves. Once back home, just plan activities to keep them involved with the day to day homestead as much as possible.
Most tweens can understand the need to prepare for disasters so you can approach teaching them by telling them the reasoning behind it. Explain that if you are sick or injured, you will need them to step up and be able to keep things going.
You know your child by this age, hopefully you know what works to motivate them, so use it. Teaching them these skills, until they not only learn them but can apply them and adapt them to any situation that comes up is probably one of the most important things you can do for them.
Skills and Tasks for Tweens & Teens Might Include Things like:
- How to make a litter from natural materials to carry an injured person
- Practice Stitching Wounds
- Ways to build shelter from found materials
- Several methods for outdoor cooking including open fire, solar oven, rocket stove, etc.
- Finding, Purifying, and Storing Water
- How to Build a Rainwater Catchment System
- Basic electrical and plumbing skills
- Livestock Management and Husbandry
- Crop Rotation Planning
- Firearms and Ammunition stockpiling
- Stockpile rotation
- Foraging for wild and medicinal plants
Honestly, the list of skills and tasks your kids need to master so you can be confident they will survive SHTF without you is truly endless. Unfortunately there are no guarantees.
All we can do as parents is try to give our kids exposure to situations and activities that will help them learn how to handle themselves no matter what the situation.
If they can keep themselves sheltered, fed, and healthy using their supplies and knowledge, and get to a trusted adult for help, that’s a huge start. But to survive an extended SHTF event without you there to guide them will be a whole different experience.
Think about all the skills you, as an adult, have had to learn and master when it comes to preparing for SHTF. You probably still have areas where you know your skills aren’t up to par, right?
Your kids will be the same way. They will have areas of strength and areas where their skills are weaker. Focus on creating an overall group whose weaknesses are offset by other members and keep your kids involved enough in the day to day activities that they will be a contributing group member where you are around or not.
As they get older and have more knowledge, let them take over specific tasks or sections and once they have mastered that area, move them to another section.
Where do your kids stand on their ability to survive SHTF without you? What skills and tasks are you teaching your young children? Have you been able to get your teens or even adult children interested in prepping? Share your experience in the comments below.
A mother of four and grandmother of nine boys and one girl, Megan is living the lifestyle any prepper would want. Gardening, homesteading and constantly planning for emergencies big and small, she’s a beacon of knowledge in the prepping community.