Would Your Children Survive a Crisis?

As a parent myself, I know that this is something that none of us like to think about. But the sad truth is that when a crisis occurs, it is really the children who suffer the most.

What got me really thinking about this was when I was watching the news this week, and saw reports on the 1-year anniversary of the disastrous earthquake in Haiti. Rubble still stands in great piles. Thousands of people are still living in tent cities. President Bill Clinton was quoted as saying that a great amount of progress has been made there. But to the naked eye, everything remains completely in ruins. One woman who was interviewed tearfully stated that she has literally nothing. Anything that she has, she said, is something that was begged for, or that she was given by friends.

All of these images are painful and disturbing. But of course the most painful images are those of the children. Many children have no choice but to fend for themselves, as they or orphaned, or their parents are too weak and sick to care for them. The same thing happened in Argentina recently after their economic collapse- children literally wandered the streets scrounging for food and digging through garbage to simply survive. We also saw the same image after the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Really, these natural disasters can happen anywhere at any time.

With the reality of economic and weather-related disasters all around us, we should ask ourselves, have we equipped our children to survive these crises? If we were injured or incapacitated, could our kids fend for themselves? If they were on their own, would they know what to do? This is an essential part of survival. Our kids must be taught self-sufficiency, they must not rely on us entirely for survival.

A good starting point for teaching your children survival skills is to remember to make it fun for them, not scary. Try making it game-like. Tell them that you are going to take them camping and teach them how to build a fire, not that they need to learn to survive in the wilderness. Invite a neighbor or relative along so that your children can build trust with another adult. Definitely don’t tell your kids that they may be orphans one day and they need to learn how to survive by themselves. There is no need to frighten your kids like this.

Another great beginning point for teaching your children survival skills is to practice gender neutrality. Do not teach your daughter skills that you think a girl should know, and your son skills you think a boy should know. Teach them both equally with no regard to gender. There are plenty of people out their who think that only women know how to sew and only men can handle a pocket knife. But these are skills that both boys and girls should learn and be comfortable with. All kids should learn basic gardening, hunting, and safety skills (staying away from downed power lines, stop-drop-and-roll, etc).

As you garden in your survival garden, pull your kids away from their video games and get them out in the garden with you. You may think they will not be interested, but I’ll bet you that they will be. Gardens are full of all sorts of creepy, crawly, smelly, dirty, and cool things. Teach children the names of fruits and vegetables, and what nutrients they have that are good for us. Also make sure to teach children what plants they should not eat- those that may be poisonous or harmful. My kids were always fascinated with my herb garden- they knew it as the “medicine garden” because it contained everything I needed to cure their tummy aches, bumps, and bruises. From a very early age, my children knew that they could rely on the earth and its fruits to care for them. This is an important lesson.

Again, I know it is not pleasant to think about your kids needing to survive on their own. But with the real possibility that in a crisis you may not be able to care for them, teaching your children to be self sufficient is a truly valuable lesson.

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