Equipping Children with the core skills of survival, such as making fire, shelter, and boiling water, can not only be a great family bonding activity but a test of their resolve, forcing children to come face to face with the harsh realities of making a fire without a lighter or perhaps constructing a shelter in the rain. Will they give up, or will they press on? This training develops their survival mindset and allows us as parents and guardians to teach about personal awareness and survival psychology regardless of their decision. All of this information should be practiced as regularly as possible to give our children an opportunity for personal growth and skills improvement. But when should you start teaching your child these skills? That will depend mainly on when you get a solid grasp of the skills yourself. If you are beginning to learn survival and preparedness skills and have tweens and teenagers, you might consider prodding them to join you in the learning experience.
However, if you have younger children, especially those in grade school, then the time is now; they will jump at the chance to learn survival stuff with mom and dad. Regardless of the age of your children, it would help if you realized that it’s as essential for them to learn the skills as it is for you. What if, for example, you, as the family leader, became ill, injured, or worse yet, did not make it through the initial crisis event- what will the children have left to depend on besides the gear you have amassed? Knowledge weighs nothing, so the more they know now as youngsters, the less equipment they’ll become dependent upon as adults.
While the skills are fun, the reasons for the crafts are topics many parents have trouble conveying to their children. I do not understand this. If they are your children, why is there a problem communicating information with them? I know how to talk to my kids; I treat them as I would want to be treated now and as I would have liked to have been treated when I was a child. So, I articulate my concerns with the world to them as best I can regularly. When I see something in the news that alarms me, they all hear about it, and yes, often with all the gory details. When we watch a movie together, and there’s an important lesson, I pause it, talk about the lesson and how it applies to us, and we move on. This lesson format is our daily routine. The good book tells us to train up a child in the way they should go so that when they’re grown, they will not depart from the path we’ve shown them (Proverbs 22:6), and that is a wise methodology.
If you’ve done your part as a parent, they will share your concerns and develop an awareness of these same issues. They will then begin conveying similar concerns and understanding of these and similar issues they become aware of back to you. Is there fear involved? It depends on your family dynamic. If you appear afraid of a given situation, kids are very keen on reading your reactions; therefore, you will convey fear to your children, making them fearful and perhaps harder to wrangle back in during an actual crisis event. Suppose you use the situation as a teaching moment, even though you may be afraid. In that case, you share rational intelligence about what you as a family will be doing to overcome the obstacle, thereby instilling confidence and faith in your endeavor, which will replace fearful reactions with purpose-driven, problem-solving reactions.
So, how do we approach teaching survival skills to our kids? We Educate (Tell them), Demonstrate (Show them) and have them Imitate (Do it themselves). It’s not much different from teaching adults, save that children, for the most part, often lack the strength to perform specific survival skills and require consistent reinforcement of a concept before they get it for themselves. For example, striking a fire-steel (ferrocerium rod) off the back of a knife spine is a learned technique that takes a fair amount of manual skill and strength to perform. I’ve seen many adults fumble with this technique for quite some time before learning how to adapt to overcome their limitations. With a child, you may need to point out a few solutions to get their mind working on adapting to compensate for their lack of strength or inability to perform specific movements.
Additionally, if you’ve never let your child hold a knife before or trusted them enough to carry one outside, you cannot expect them to be able to use it to strike a fire steel the first or the fiftieth time during a crisis event. Practice makes perfect, and above all, patience and love should be given by the boatload! We want our kids to learn these skills, and the last thing we want to do is give them a terrible learning experience with us while doing it. While there will be discouragement, we must instill a can-do attitude and constantly remind them to persevere and NEVER give up, for their life or that of another loved one may one day depend on it.