When it comes to emergency preparedness, a lot of folks out there frequently concentrate on one main concept: protection. This is especially true for parents who have a natural desire to keep their children safe.
The challenging life of a parent
Every parent wishes for their children to grow up to live safe, happy, and fulfilling lives and the desire to protect them from harm in any form arises the moment you realize you are responsible for a life other than your own.
Even if they wish they could, parents cannot protect their children from everything. Life is full of curve balls that appear at the most unexpected times.
So, when it comes to protecting children from threats ranging from kidnappers and robbers to natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes, there’s another important concept to consider: empowerment.
By teaching children to be self-sufficient when they are young, you are not only preparing them to deal with disasters and adversity, but you are also teaching them valuable life skills.
Which skills should be taught the most?
And how do you even know where to start?
The good news is that empowering children does not have to be difficult. Lessons and self-confidence can be naturally integrated into daily tasks. You can help kids learn to protect themselves and prepare for life’s bumpy road by taking a few simple steps.
Involve your kids in various preparations
If your family is used to disaster planning, or even if you’re just getting started, it’s critical to include your children in the discussion. Explain why the family is preparing, what they are preparing for, and how they can help. Make them feel like they’re a part of the action.
Keep in mind the kids’ age and maturity level so you don’t scare them with the information they can’t understand. As soon as they’re old enough to understand, I recommend telling them about the most likely disasters, some of which are dependent on where you live.
Families on the East Coast, for example, must be prepared for hurricanes, whereas families in the Midwest must be prepared for tornadoes.
Other potential disasters, on the other hand, are not location-specific. No matter where you live, I believe that children should be taught about “stranger danger” and crime from an early age. Because these programs are no longer taught in many schools, it is up to parents to start the conversation and help their children understand what they should be aware of.
Nurture situational awareness
When it comes to being environmentally conscious, one of the best things parents can do is take their children outside to connect with nature. We are still somehow animals at our core nature, and one of our most valuable assets is our ability to coordinate our movements.
Kids must learn to defend themselves, and one way to do so is to run around outside, which improves agility, coordination, and awareness of one’s surroundings. Early in life, children should develop a sense of personal navigation, which for a young child may simply mean navigating the various rooms and areas of the home.
As the child grows, this may extend to the neighborhood, surrounding area, and possibly the child’s school route. This instills confidence and independence in them.
Playing games is a great way to teach situational awareness in a fun and age-appropriate way. You can play the alphabet game and use the objects and landmarks the kids notice while driving to the store. Once in the store, point out police officers and other adults they can rely on for assistance and instruct children to look for exit signs and escape routes.
As children get older, you can start giving them more information and letting them know what types of emergencies to expect in that environment and discussing strategies for dealing with specific situations.
Make a communication plan
If your child attends daycare or school away from home, it is critical that you have a way to contact them if the phone lines go down. Although I am not a fan of giving children cell phones, I believe that even young children can benefit from having a basic mobile phone in their backpacks.
There are even cell phones designed specifically for this purpose, with only a few buttons that can be programmed with emergency contacts like Mom, Dad, Grandma, and 911. This makes them accessible to even the youngest children.
Include a laminated list of emergency contacts inside the child’s backpack, so they don’t have to rely on remembering a phone number in an emergency. During an emergency, a trusted adult can also benefit greatly from this list.
I should also mention that as children grow older in this digital age, you can start to teach them how to use electronics responsibly.
I recommend starting by purchasing a low-cost cell phone to use as an emergency phone and lending it to the kids, which teaches them how to keep it safe (that is, not losing it or dropping it in the toilet) and teaches them how to use the device to communicate with parents.
They’ll eventually be able to operate an iPhone or a smartphone. However, regardless of which phone you select, it is critical for parents to implement parental controls and limit both the amount of time spent on the device and the type of content the child can access. You can gradually loosen things up as you see fit.
You wouldn’t leave your 8-year-old at the mall alone, and you shouldn’t let your child roam the internet at will. Finally, cell phones can be life-saving tools in a family’s communication strategy.
Make a small bugout bag for your children
It’s never too early to start putting together a bugout bag for your child, and the most important thing is that it’s age-appropriate. This includes comfort items for young children.
Pack a lightweight collection of favorite games, a teddy bear, sweets, trail mix, a Nerf football, and anything else that might distract the child’s attention away from the crisis so that parents can focus on what needs to be done.
As children get older, their bugout bag can evolve to include items that go beyond comfort to survival, such as a pocket knife, flashlight, poncho, pre-paid cell phone, emergency whistle, iPod, first aid kit, hand sanitizer, and protective equipment like goggles and masks.
Teach them basic life skills with every opportunity you get
I strongly believe in the importance of programs like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, as well as other classes that teach wilderness survival skills. I also believe that the skills must be transferable to an urban lifestyle, as this is how the majority of people live. It’s not a bad idea to teach children how to hunt, fish, garden, and cook in an age-appropriate manner.
Parents can begin this process by encouraging their children to tidy their personal space, and then gradually expand their responsibilities to include picking up around the house and assisting with chores in and around the home.
This promotes the natural development of life skills. For instance, if you’re repairing something, have your child hold the nails and observe how you hammer.
They can also help you cook by mashing bananas for banana bread, stirring pancake batter, or adding chopped vegetables to a salad.
Allow your children to observe how you use the sewing machine.
You can give them the opportunity to assist you whenever you perform a skill. This, in turn, develops into a wide range of life skills over time.
Every mother and father wish for their children to live safe, happy, and fulfilling lives. The desire to protect them from danger in any form kicks in the minute you realize you are responsible for a life other than your own.
Get down to their level and try to make things as simple and approachable as possible. Your kids need to learn how to use their own skills to accomplish tasks that are age appropriate. By observing and sometimes mimicking their parents, kids build up knowledge and gain self-confidence. You won’t always be able to be there for your children, but it’s your duty to make sure your teachings follow them everywhere they go.
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