Even if you do not plan to have children at your retreat, they will eventually find you. Kids are survivors and they always find a way to make it – it is the human condition. My wife and I lived in East Africa and we have seen street kids endure things that no child should ever experience. Despite the horrendous circumstances, they move ahead and children in this country will also move forward. We are all planning for the worst, and for some of you, the worst would be lots of children hanging around your retreat. If you are not used to being around children, then you should start making it a point to be with them. Volunteer at your church nursery or work at the YMCA. If you have not been around kids lately, they are much louder and more energetic than you remember. A few brief tastes of their company now could make the transition to life with children easier later.
| This article will discuss the following aspects of children and TEOTWAWKI: our attitude towards children, building strong family relationships, retreat safety, work, education, and health.
Attitude. Regardless of our current feelings toward children, if in the midst of TEOTWAWKI, we still fail to see children as the hope of tomorrow, then we are just as evil and blind as those who are destroying our country today. In preparing for TEOTWAWKI, we all feel a little stressed and overwhelmed at times. Imagine how kids are going to feel. Their inheritance is anarchy and chaos. When TEOTWAWKI does happen, I think the first thing we should do with children is tell them that this is not their fault. It would also be a good idea to ask them to forgive us and the past generations for making some really bad choices. The buck must stop somewhere, and there will be no point in passing the blame onto our kids. Then, we need to invest our energy and resources in a younger generation that will exhibit a spirit of honor, respect, and bravery which this nation has not seen since its creation. We can be the parents and grandparents of the next founding fathers.
| The Bible says that children are a blessing. We must lose our modern distortions that make our kids a liability. As we move back into an 18th century lifestyle, we must also understand that children are a valuable asset in the day to day. For a contemporary model, look at an Amish or Mennonite community. Kids will help in the daily routines and take care of us when we are old and gray. When given the chance, children can also bring keen insight and intuition into a situation. Kids bring huge amounts of joy, laughter and comic relief to the mundane.
Strong Relationships. Know your kids and allow your kids to know you. (This also applies to you knowing your spouse.) Yes, this does take time and effort. For families accustomed to working, studying, and playing independently of each other, being thrown together 24/7 will be stressful. The more you know and understand other family members, the easier communication and life will be in general. A good starting point to guide you is to know your child’s love language and to know his/her personality type. There is a ton of information about the five love languages: touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, and gifts. Everyone speaks at least one of these love languages. Oftentimes, the people we “feel” loved by are the ones that speak our language, and the ones we do not relate well with are the ones who speak a different language. For example, a friend of ours did not feel a lot of love from her dad while growing up. He was a Vietnam vet and he worked two jobs to provide for his family. After studying the love languages, she realized her love languages are touch and words of affirmation and her dad speaks the love language of acts of service and gifts. Now she realizes that her dad was trying to show her love her entire life by working to provide everything for the family. However, she did not perceive his efforts as love because she spoke love in physical touch and words of affirmation. They were showing love to each other but the different languages did not translate well. She was thankful that her dad provided, but she really needed her dad to give her hugs and affirm her with positive words.
| I use this example because you could be speaking your language of love, but your child is not hearing it. Learn your kid’s language early on and speak it frequently even if it is a “foreign” language to you. It may be awkward at first, but I promise that it will get easier with time. Check out Gary Chapman’s books on the five love languages.
There are numerous models for personality types. You can research online. Personality will make a huge impact on the dynamics of your team so you might want to include a simple personality test in your supplies. It is often helpful for people to realize that other teammates simply deal with circumstances differently. They are not trying to be difficult. (It just comes natural.) Children are going to be a part of the team. Building good team dynamics is possible even in very stressful situations.
Safety. Besides all the security of the retreat, give special attention to the safety of your children. When the SHTF, people will lose their sense of power and the feeling of control. People will be looking for a way to feel power and control in their life. Children will be an easy target for physical and sexual abuse – especially from people in your own retreat. Yes, I am saying that family, friends, neighbors, as well as strangers could be your child’s predators. Statistically, children are already more likely to be victims of abuse by friends and family than strangers. Putting families and friends together in a small space during stressful times will only increase the likelihood. Also, I believe that taking hostages for ransom will become a common event – just look at Somalia. When people figure out that you are the owner of a well stocked retreat, your kids could become an easy target. Regardless the situation, the following are some steps that might make things safer for your children.
Safety in the Retreat. As previously mentioned, most abuse to children is inflicted by people know to the children, therefore, safety within the retreat is a big deal. You must give your kids and their living space special attention when thinking about your retreat. Start today by making it a habit to know where your children are right now– especially your younger children. Never leave them alone at the retreat. I am going to investigate a tracking device that might be hidden on my child’s person. This might be helpful if we do get lost in the hordes. (If anyone knows anything about this, I would love to know more.)
| In regards to the retreat, I recommend an open floor plan for several reasons. First, an open plan allows you to keep tabs on everyone’s location and activities in your house. Second, an open floor plan allows for a clear line of sight if any unwanted guests come through your front door. Put a mud room on the outside and you have an even greater defense. Third, an open floor plan allows your kids more room to run and play. A small room to a child is big. A big room to a child is humongous. The more elbow room the better for everyone, especially kids. Fourth, (we have learned this by having foster kids) an open plan allows your family’s rooms to be physically separate from everyone else. Everyone else can either live on other side of the house, (or your family upstairs and everyone else down). No one feels “put out” because the large open space is very inviting and hospitable. Also, design your rooms so that the only door access to your children’s room is through your room. Alarm your kid’s door and windows – some on your door and window would be good too – these alarms are separate from the overall retreat’s alarms. If you have a different floor plan or you get stuck somewhere, sleep the entire family together in one room.
Safety in Obedience. Children must learn to obey upon command – 1st time. This is the best way to keep them safe and secure when it all goes down. If your child does not obey now, how will they respond when you give commands in a life and death situation? You cannot afford to have kids who will not obey you. However, strive to be a leader; not a dictator to your children. Also, understand that a child making mistakes is not the same as a child disobeying. Making a mistake is not wrong. Disobeying is. Know the difference and make sure your child knows the difference. Moreover, consistently enforcing obedience will allow your kids to feel safer. Even when things are falling apart, your kids will find comfort in knowing that dad and mom are still in control of the household. Shepherding a Child’s Heart is a great book to guide you on this path.
Work. We must train our children. Oftentimes, we mistakenly have a fast food mindset when it comes to training because that is the paradigm that we have often been “trained”. On some jobs I received maybe one example of how to do something, and then I was left alone to figure everything else out. Real training takes time because we must walk with them and they must walk with us. It becomes not just about getting a job done but about building a relationship. One of the major reasons we must develop quality training habits is because our supplies and parts will be extremely limited. We will not be able to break things and simply go to the store and buy new parts. We can take better care of our equipment by properly training everyone on the retreat including the children. Everything we are learning, we must pass on to our kids. All the things that technology has stolen from us that we had to relearn (preserving food, making buckskin, etc.), we must teach that to our kids. We all agree with that, but we have to implement it into our lives. Watch one. Do one. Teach one. As our child is watching us do something, we need to talk them through the why’s of doing it. We must show them how to do it the way we want it to be done. We must watch them for a time as they do it, and they must be competent enough to train someone else to do the same skill. This will be an essential lifestyle change when TEOTWAWKI.
It is essential that our kids do not have this spirit of entitlement that is so rampant in our culture. Three easy ways to “vaccinate” our kids against the disease of entitlement is eliminating television, giving generously, and doing daily chores. For those of us in suburbs or towns, your kids might not have a goat to milk, but there are plenty of small jobs to be done. Wash the dishes or dust the light switches -something. They must be a part of the daily grind. My almost two and almost four year olds wash dishes, fold clothes, pick up, and help cook. Of course, they do these jobs like a two year old and a four year old, but we are not aiming for the cover of Good Housekeeping. Kids need to know they have a part, and they are needed. If you invest heavily in children before age five, then they will easy pay dividends for the rest of the time they are under your roof.
Americans spend a ridiculous amount of money on toys that break or are quickly outgrown. Buy your kids useful tools that they can play with and learn a skill at the same time. Our boys got a tool set one Christmas with a real hammer, measuring tape, etc. My wife and I got them some scraps of wood and a box of nails – they hammered on those things daily for months. Of course, it might have taken him several minutes, but by the time my son was 22 months old, he could drive any nail, no matter the size, straight.
After you give them some useful tools, allow them to work on a real project with you. This past fall, I let my boys work on a chicken tractor. It took twice as long as it would have with me alone. They did a lot of the work, and they were proud of their efforts. I was too. This was not only good for them, but it was good for me. It made me slow down and enjoy the journey. When TSHTF, there will be no cards to punch and no schedule to keep. If we do not start now, we will be stressed by the slow pace of retreat life. A great way to grow accustomed to the slow pace is to let your kids help.
You have taken inventory of your possessions, but do not forget to inventory your children’s tools and “toys”. Keep your bikes and your kid’s bike in good shape in case you have to bug-out on foot. Their snow sleds may be useful. Even your child’s tree house could serve as a nice guard tower. Our current retreat has enough traffic from family and friends that a fortified watchtower would raise too many questions. So, I am thinking about strategically adding a tree house for the boys that will also accommodate sand bags and insulation for a future guard tower.
Education. I believe a huge emphasis on future education will need to be on social studies – government, history, and true economics. Without the re-creation of a stable government, all the inventors, scientists, mathematicians will have no other choice than to be subsistence farmers for the feudal lord. The only way to get out of the dark ages is to have another renaissance. There is coming a generation that will have to put a government back together again. Our current U.S. Constitution is politically brilliant but it leaves out the one thing that caused the American Revolution. “Taxation without representation” was about economics. Sadly, the checks and balances of our Constitution did not extend into our economics, and it is very evident that our economy has indeed been hi-jacked. Therefore, our kids will have to be educated on what makes money and politics work. Develop your library. Teach them about Blackstone’s commentary on English law and political philosophy (including fascism and socialism). The Bible says a lot about law and economics – debt, currency based on precious metals, seven-year economic cycles, and stewardship. Again, someone is going to grow up and be in charge. It might as well be our kids.
The best way I know to research home schooling material is to attend your state’s home school convention. My wife and I like the Sonlight curriculum but each family is unique. My wife and I decided not to purchase all the curriculum for every school year (K-12) in case TEOTWAWKI happens before our boys graduate. It is a lot of money and a lot of storage. Since we currently do not live on our retreat, that curriculum might not make the cut if we suddenly bug out. Instead, we have been talking a lot about what truly constitutes a good education. First, we feel that if our children do not know the LORD, then we have failed as parents. This means that our children need to learn how to pray and how to hear the LORD’s voice. I recommend checking out Mark Virkler and his teaching on hearing God’s voice. (For me, this is the greatest tool my family has when it comes to preparing for TEOTWAWKI.
Besides knowing the LORD, there will need to be a practical application of learning that many Amish and Mennonite communities now use. Forget the curriculum mapping. Frame education around life. Honestly, allowing your child to help with calculating the logistics of preparation for TEOTWAWKI will cover math and science up to high school. It would be great if you had room for instruments and art material. I do think that high school students will need some textbooks. I would prefer lower level college textbooks. Just buy an older edition for pennies online. My essential high school textbook list would include the following: world history, United States history, United States literature anthology, English literature anthology, geometry, algebra, pre-calculus, calculus, biology, chemistry, physics, a broad art anthology, and possibly a foreign language of whatever country is invading us at the time.
Facing TEOTWAWKI, children must be educated about the life cycle. Birth and death are complicated matters for any child, and most children in our society are exposed to the life cycle through television or video games. Kids and adults will have many questions about this topic when the SHTF. Already having a paradigm for life and death will make things slightly easier on everyone around you. A farm is a great place to learn. If you are not on a farm, connect with a farmer and take your kids along to see a birthing or a death of something, anything. We involved our kids (age appropriate and what my wife could handle) as much as possible with our last home birth. At the bare minimum, expose them to funerals and funeral homes.
Along with the life cycle, kids need to understand that good and evil do exist and that good does prevail. I believe that story telling is probably the best way to convey this message. The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, and the Bible are great sources. Almost every night, I tell my kids stories before they go to bed. They request accounts about “good guys” and “bad guys”. I usually tell them stories from the Bible – unedited. We do our children a huge disfavor when we only give them the edited Sunday school versions. My boys love the story of David and Goliath (although my two year old insists there is a shotgun somewhere in the telling of that story) and how David chops off Goliath’s head in the end. Which led me to a realization one night as I told them a story: after the adults screw things up and cower in the corner, God will use a kid (a Joseph, a David, a Daniel, an Esther) to make things right and save an entire people. Ultimately, I tell my boys that Jesus is coming back and his garments will be stained red from the blood of killing the wicked (Isaiah 63) and that Jesus will establish his Kingdom to rule and reign. Happy bedtime stories at our house. But I want my kids to know there is a greater Hope that leads us through the sometimes difficult journey.
Health. I am certainly not a doctor, but I am going to outline our general philosophy on children’s health. You are free to take it or leave it. First, I strongly recommend praying for those who are sick. Besides complete healing miracles, there is research showing that prayer does bring healing quicker. I am not going to suggest that I know why some are healed and some are not. I do know that I am commanded to pray.
I am amazed at how many people, including children, are on prescription drugs. Our friends adopted a girl who was on eleven prescription drugs that cost $800 a month. For the past 12 months, they have worked with the doctor and have her down to four prescriptions. They are on schedule to eliminate those drugs within the next few months. Work with your doctor to scale back and eliminate everything if possible. One alternative to prescription drugs is to study naturopathy and homeopathy. Many pharmaceutical drugs are synthetic imitations of chemicals that exist in plants. There are many resources out there, and I am not qualified to expound upon them. However, my wife is currently studying naturopathy, and we have been using homeopathic solutions with good results. We are open to any type of medical care that works: chiropractors, fasting, Genesis/Levitical diets, muscle response therapy, iridology, etc.
With children, it is important to diagnose quickly. Baby 411 and Toddler 411 are geared toward the modern medical philosophy, but they have saved us numerous trips to the pediatrician. Children will recover from many illnesses when given enough recovery time. Knowing which symptoms are “wait and see” and which ones need immediate attention by a physician can bring a lot of peace of mind. We are currently researching more alternative children’s health resources. If you know of any, please post it.
Our kids were getting sick almost every other week. As soon as they recovered from one cold, they would get another. A chiropractor friend told us the best way to keep kids healthy is to keep them on a routine with plenty of scheduled sleep, vitamins, and probiotics. We started by cutting out some activities that occurred in the evening because we were getting to bed late. We read how many hours our kids were suppose to sleep and set-up a sleep schedule for them to follow. Also, it became important for our kids to always be dressed appropriately to conserve their body’s energy. It was amazing how much healthier our kids were. Our plan on the retreat is to keep our kids on a schedule and to practice quarantine-like practices for those who are ill.
Children are our future. Our attitudes toward them, relationships with them, and physical, emotional, and spiritual concerns for them all deserve consideration and careful planning.