Those of us who have kids must take them into consideration in our survival planning. As parents, we want to protect our children from harm, which could very well cause us to do everything for them. But in doing so, we can inadvertently create a more dangerous situation for them.
Granted, all children need to be protected, especially small children. But as they grow, they need to learn the skills which allow them to become more independent. Please note that this is different than just being granted independence; it’s not about authority, but rather skills and knowledge.
In the Old West, children were given as much responsibility as they could bear. This required parents knowing their children and what their limits were. It also required the parents to train their children, giving them the skills and knowledge to be able to effectively fulfill those responsibilities. This also meant having the character to do the chores, without mom and dad having to get after them.
When Mom and Dad Are Gone …
But the real test of a child’s responsibility was when they were left alone. While this did not happen very often, there were times when it did, especially in the case of a single parent (where the other parent had died). But what would happen to the children if the single parent died while away from home? There were countless dangers in the Old West, ranging from marauding Native Americans to wild animals. Death could happen at any time, and when it did, the children were left alone.
How long they would be left alone would depend a lot on the circumstances. If something happened to someone who lived in town, it would be noticed immediately. But for those who lived on isolated homesteads, it could be days or even weeks before anyone was aware that children were being forced to live on their own and care for themselves. Only then would the community rally around to help them.
Parents wanted to avoid such a situation. They wanted to train their children so that if something happened to them, their children would be able to care for themselves and survive. This caused children to grow up fast on the frontier, learning skills that we would normally avoid teaching our children until they were much older.
At 10 years of age, most children knew how to start and tend a fire, care for the livestock, work the farm, and shoot a gun accurately. Some would have the responsibility of hunting for the family’s food. Others would be working alongside their parents, tilling and harvesting the fields. There were no idle hands on the frontier.
But Not Just the Old West
To a child, many of the things we would consider survival skills are exciting and fun to learn, giving them the motivation to learn, without having to know why they are learning them. Let’s use the example of teaching them gardening and animal husbandry, important skills for long-term survival. So, you start gardening and get some animals to raise, having your children work right along beside you. With the animals, that will be no problem, as most children naturally gravitate toward animals anyway, especially small ones. With gardening, most kids love to get their hands dirty.
Shooting is probably the easiest skill of all to teach your children, as they usually have a fascination with guns, anyway. Besides, if you’re going to have guns in the home, you should start teaching them about gun safety at an early age. That’s the only real way of protecting them from accidents. If they are too young for real guns, start them with Nerf guns or Airsoft. Then you can move them up to pellet guns, before taking the big step up to the real thing.
Most other survival skills can be taught on camping trips. If you make camping a normal part of your family’s recreation early on, your children will grow to love it. Each trip can be planned around one lesson: teaching them a new survival skill, but talking about it as a “camping skill” rather than as a survival skill.
Tap into the natural curiosity and sense of adventure that your children have. Use their questions about life and things that they learn in school as a springboard for teaching them new survival skills, whenever you can. In other words, make survival training a part of your day-to-day life and your children will see it as normal — not something with ominous potential.
What advice would you add on teaching kids survival skills? Share your thoughts in the section below: