Teaching Kids to Have a Preparedness Mindset

Avatar Gaye Levy  |  Updated: December 16, 2020
Teaching Kids to Have a Preparedness Mindset

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Lately, I have seen a lot written about kids and prepping.  Yes, some members of the younger generation only care about immediate gratification and living in the moment.  Others, however, do pay attention to the times, and whether by osmosis or something else, do learn from their prepper parents.

That leads me into today’s topic: teaching kids to have a preparedness mindset.

Earlier this year, I was asked to help judge the annual Video and Essay contest at the Survival Weekly website. Selecting the best entry in each of the two categories was difficult because the topics covered were as diverse as the authors themselves.  At the end of the day, however, there could only be two winners: one for video and one for an essay.

Teaching Kids to Have a Preparedness Mindset | Backdoor Survival

Essay #10 was written by 16-year-old Elyssa Jones.  I share it with you with the hope that it will help you stay motivated as your teach your children, grandchildren and other young people about preparedness and the preparedness mindset.

Essay #10 – Kids and Preparedness
by Elyssa Jones

I am 16 years old and live in a home where prepping and survival is discussed way more times than I care for. I understand that my parents want to protect me but it all seems a bit much at times. As a kid, I want to go and hang out with my friends, watch TV and do things that are fun. I don’t want to sit and talk about preparedness and survival. I’m not even sure that I really understand “Situational Awareness” or “Loss of Civility” but I hear words like these all the time.

We talk about severe weather and all sorts of other things that may interrupt our lives. Dad is always talking about manmade and natural disasters and how we can prepare to survive them. He taught me what I need for emergencies and survival, how to pack a bug out bag and we discuss different places to meet in case we are not together and something tragic happens.

When Dad asked me if I was going to participate in this contest I said, “No!”. I didn’t want to and didn’t think I had anything to offer anyhow. I could tell he was bummed but I just didn’t want to.

A couple of days later the whole survival topic came up again and it occurred to me that I do have something to offer. I have my aspect as a kid; I have my experiences of being a part of a family that prepares for disasters. It is boring most of the time but other times it is interesting. Maybe even fun sometimes.

So, I sat down and began writing. It was much harder than I thought it would be and started to feel like a homework assignment. The harder I tried the more I realized I had made a big mistake! I didn’t want to do it anymore but my parents have always taught me to never give up just because something is difficult, so I continued on. I realized that there are lots of things that I know how to do that will help take some of the stress off of my parents if something bad happens.

If we stay at home during an emergency (Bug-in, as Dad says) just knowing where things are stored is helpful. If we have to leave (Bug-out) then knowing how to catch fish with Dad helps put more food on our plates. Knowing how to start a fire helps keep us warm and helps Mom heat water for cooking and washing dishes. In emergencies, I can actually be helpful and not just look to my parents to save me!

I continued to think and realized that none of my friends know anything about prepping or survival. Most of my friends are too concerned with cellphones, music, videos, playing games and doing other things. I don’t discuss prepping or survival with my friends because it’s sort of weird. I am embarrassed to talk about it with my friends because they wouldn’t understand, they don’t care anyway and would just make fun of me and my family! Maybe their parents don’t know how to survive or care to teach them about Emergency Preparedness.

At school, we have fire drills and they give us pamphlets about Hurricane and Disaster Readiness but most of the papers wind up in the trash, on the floors or flying around the student parking lot. No one reads the information because no one cares! I guess they just all think that there will always be someone there to protect and save them.

So, as much as I hate being interrupted from doing what I want to do to participate in Dad’s “Preparedness Discussions”, I can see where I have been taught how to help and even take care of my family and myself in an emergency.

I have at least some skills that can help us survive. I can’t believe I am saying this but kids need to listen and learn more about preparedness and survival if their parents are trying to teach them. We may be in a situation someday where we act and save ourselves or sit and wait for someone else to come and save us. Dad says the latter isn’t an option because there may be no one to come to save us!

I think I understand now.

The Big Move 2.0

Unless you have been living in a cave, you know I have been planning to leave Washington State at the end of this month.  The big news is that I will relocate to the State of Arizona and once I get there, will be seeking a mountain retreat somewhere along the Mogollon Rim where it is cool in the summer and the hunting and fishing are bountiful.

There will be challenges.  As I outlined in the article Getting Out of Dodge: The Survival Retreat, we have a bucket list of “wants” yet recognize that getting them all and staying within budget is unlikely.  There is the additional challenge of no longer being spring chickens which means we need to be mindful of access to healthcare as well as the physical challenges of maintaining a modest amount of acreage.

When the time is right, I do plan to share my journey but for now, just know that moving is hard work, especially when you are a prepper.  What stays (my barter goods and bulk foods) and what goes (my freeze dried food, gear, and water barrels) is a gut-wrenching decision and is still not totally resolved.

I will know in two weeks.

The Final Word

Has anyone besides me noticed that many long-term bloggers in the survival niche have dropped off the radar screen?  It is not that I blame them because putting out fresh content day in and day out is a lot of work.  Plus, as Jim Cobb mentioned in his interview, there are a lot of smart, young, website owners who are a whiz at social media, photo editing, ad networks, and SEO.  They tend to attract a lot of attention by simply providing a more entertaining experience.  Sadly, many are not preppers themselves and thus produce either fluff or information that is just plain wrong.

Call me an old fogey or an old geezer, but I still like to do things the old-fashioned way: with transparency, honesty, and integrity.  I write what I know about and what I don’t know, I learn.  As this site matures, I find the comments becoming an informal forum for sharing ideas among similarly-minded people.  And that, to me, is a good thing.

I carry my portable survival kit whenever I leave the house.  The nice thing about it is that it fits neatly in a pocket, day pack, glove box, or handbag.  If you are interested in more details or need assistance building your own kit, see 8 Essential Items: The Perfect Portable Survival Kit.  The only thing I have changed since writing the article is to add Band-Aids to the tin.  Lots of Band-Aids!

In the meantime, here are some items you should consider carrying with you as you travel near and afar.

BIC Classic Lighters (12): A dozen full-size BIC lighters with free shipping. Don’t forget to test them to ensure they work!

Paracord Lanyard:  I prefer a paracord lanyard over a bracelet because I can use its clip to attach my whistle as well as other items that I may want to add from time to time such as a second flashlight, a Swiss army knife, pepper spray, or a flash drive (thumb drive).

Blocklite Ultra Bright 9V 6 LED Flashlight: I own six of these little gems. There is a similar flashlight called the Pak-Lite (which is more expensive) but it does not have a high-low switch like this one. These little flashlights just go and go, plus, they make good use of those re-purposed 9V alkaline batteries that you have recharged with your Maximal Power FC999 Universal Battery Charger.

Kershaw OSO Sweet Knife: This “oh so sweet” knife is solidly built, stainless steel knife that comes razor sharp right out of the package. It will pretty much cut through anything the price is amazing.

Windstorm Safety Whistle: This particular whistle can be heard a long distance away and above howling wind and other competing sounds.  I love my cheapie whistles but this is the one I would depend upon for wilderness survival.

Lavender Essential Oil:  This is the Swiss army knife of essential oils. My favorite lavender oil is from Spark Naturals.  Enjoy a 10% discount with code BACKDOORSURVIVAL.

Chances are you have something similar already that can be repurposed for free.

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter:  Too large for a pocket kit but important to have with you is the Lifestraw Personal Water Filter.  At only 2 ounces (in weight), the LifeStraw is suitable for a backpack or bug out bag.  It is easy to use and requires no chemicals to remove a  minimum of 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria.


What are the best oils for your survival kit? Here are my top picks.

9 Best Essential Oils for Your Survival Kit | Backdoor Survival

Aff | Tactical Pen

[DEAL] Ultimate Concealed Weapon

Tactical Pen / Multi-Tool (Flashlight, knife, etc)

Stay Protected
Aff | Tactical Pen
[DEAL] Ultimate Concealed Weapon Stay Protected

11 Responses to “Teaching Kids to Have a Preparedness Mindset”

  1. Totally agree on teaching kids. Mine are 2 and 3 and already have simple household chores and understand the “we all need to do our part” concept. I’m looking forward to next spring when we will get back to camping (we’re urbanites). Camping is one of the funnest ways to teach survival skills to kids – how to make shelter, cook food, perform health and hygiene tasks, live without gas and electricity but in a fun atmosphere. Kids learn best when they don’t even realize they’re learning and just feel like they’re having fun.

    We actually let the three year old use a paring knife to help make dinner. We let both children use a hammer and screwdrivers to “nail” and “screw” into cardboard boxes so that they develop familiarity with hand tools and hone their manual dexterity.

    A big part of teaching kids survival skills is resisting the urge to helicoptor them. Teach them the safety rules, warn them of possible risks, supervise properly, yes – – but then let them at it. Kids learn best by DOING.

    Gaye, I follow a lot of blogs like yours – “mom” blogs with a prepping focus. I find such blogs to be the most reasonable and practical and thoughtful. The trendy prepper blogs and the doom and gloom type blogs don’t do it for me. Keep it up!

  2. “I guess they just all think that there will always be someone there to protect and save them.”

    This is a big problem, with out culture. There is too much reliance on the government to “save us” when the government has no ability to save us. Each one of us has to save ourselves and those near us. I think the government pushes this on us. They get in the way of people trying to help disaster victims because food doesn’t meet regulations or just because. Then they promise help they can never deliver on.

  3. “Has anyone besides me noticed that many long-term bloggers in the survival niche have dropped off the radar screen?” I’ve wondered if they are giving up the blogs to focus on their own families. I too forego my reading many times depending on how busy I am. I haven’t been on Facebook either for 9 months and thought about deleting my account, if not for snatching my family’s pics I would have already. I’ve settled (not a good description) on 3 or 4 bloggers as my go-to(s). I just don’t have the hours it takes to do the social media thang. I’m not one to keep my mouth shut when cute puppies/kittens/babies/political and the endless amounts of drivel of posts shouting what the person posting wants us to know about themselves crosses my feed, and keeping one’s mouth shut when it comes to prepping & what we have is crucial. And I couldn’t guess the percentage of those whom wear rose colored glasses in today’s climate! I get what I need by way of you and the FEW others I’ve come to trust. No frustrations from differing opinions or from not measuring up if I don’t do this, wear that, buy this, or blah blah blah or else. Maybe those bloggers finally realized that long term fooling the masses was exhausting and just gave up. Thankfully, Gaye, you’ve earned our trust (referencing James Burnette).

  4. I totally agree with you on the new prepper blogs showing up. I have seen some odd new blogs popping up that set off my spidey sense. Like the blog owner has an obvious fake name. They go into facebook groups and add everyone in them. I’m assuming some seo guru had a webinar or something telling people to go into the Survival niece. So like everything else don’t just let the blogger have your trust until it’s earned.

    • I think a lot of these pop up trying to cash in on the popularity of reality shows like Dual Survivor or Doomsday Prepper. They’re a flash in the pan.

    • The question you ask about long term storage is a good one and one that can be answered quite simply. Given proper storage conditions without excess heat, and using an O2 absorber, it is not unreasonable to expect a shelf life of 20 to 30 years.

      There are many sites that claim this is not true but I disagree. As a reference, check out this article from the LDS website. The LDS are experts in food storage and have no profit motive in sharing their wisdom (I am not LDS.)

  5. When my Grandson turned 16 his mother bought him a car only for the fact of getting himself to all of his sporting activities and practices. She and her husband work in 2 different directions with over a 45 minute commute each way. For his birthday gift Grandma & Grandpa went practical. A large canvas bag for the trunk was purchased along with everything he would need in the event his car broke down, flat tire, stranded due to weather and so on. Of course he thought that the gift was not going to do him any good any time soon. Within 3 months he needed to help a friend out with jumper cables (the other boy’s father did not own a pair but now does. Has used his tire pressure gauge on his tires as well as his Mother’s car. Has been able to check his own oil level and add wiper fluid when needed. A month ago the portable tire inflator and can of fix a flat was needed for his mother’s car. He has been starting to understand the purpose of the emergency car bag we put together for him. As of recently he was able to assist his dad change a flat tire and payed close attention to the process. When the topic of someone else putting the bag in their trunk he told them to get their own as he is seeing many occasions it has been very useful and he does not want to be caught off guard. We have been approaching different areas of preparedness with our grandson over time. As long as he can experience some of the emergencies the pieces fall into place for the reason we do what we do. Our next lesson will be with firearm training with his parent’s permission and now they think they need to do this as well.

  6. I hear you about the moving! My Mother passed in July and I am in the process of reassessing my prepping as well as my possessions. I will be putting everything in storage for 6 months, so all my water storage has been dumped or given away. The foods mother ate and that which I can’t eat given away. Everything in the freezer dried or canned. I will live amongst my children for the next 6 months and than a life change. I will be teaching my grand/great-children how to sew. A pedal sewing machine is on my prepping list as well as a quilting machine.
    Gaye, I have learned all moving is done on wheels. I bought a great dolly that converts to a cart to move everything! Before that I used Mother’s walker.

  7. Just throwing this out to see if anyone else will chime in.

    How about after you are officially moved you get a P.O. box or some way to receive mail without the world knowing exactly where you live. Then your appreciative fans can each send you some of that long term storage stuff that is hard to transport yourself?

    I for one appreciate your hard work and it has been free for everyone so maybe it’s time for payback. Weekly during the summer I drive past wheat montana that grows and sells bulk wheat berries that are organic. Shipping is expensive but shipping low and slow still will cost less than some subscription web sites that I pay for.

    When we moved to montana I shuttled 4 of the largest U haul trucks 500 miles and we didn’t move furniture or any of the normal stuff.

  8. Finding ways to make the information relevant to the ages of the children involved and how things will affect them is important. 3 of my grand children recently moved in with me in anticipation of their parents building a new house on the property. They are ages 5, 7 and 12. City kids, moving into the country is a whole new world for them to begin with. There is no popping over to the corner store here. You have to plan what you need, because it is a 20 mile round trip and grandma doesn’t waste gas. So, I challenge them to think about what they think they will want for the next few days and ask if they have enough of it at the farm ready for them. Then, I talk to each of them about their choices and whether it is an important NEED, or just a WANT. Wants are OK too, but less important. To the 5 year old, the world could possibly end if he didn’t have gummy worms when the time came that he had permission to have a few. The 7 year old eats an apple a day (I think she saw it on a cartoon once) and gets very upset if apples are not in the fruit bowl. The 12 year old is stoic and doesn’t worry beyond basic foods to eat. I think you have to start with where kids are and what they think of as important before expecting them to accept the larger scope of prep importance. With time and patience, they will all come to understand that it is of the greatest importance to consider the future when making choices about what they spend their money on, as well as the importance of setting aside for the future. Start with what is relevant to them.

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