Bugging Out With Children, by T.L.

The day that we found out I was pregnant was a happy and joy-filled day. Never once did it cross our minds that a few years down the road, we would fear for the lives of our children and their futures. The world in which we live in is a scary place. The economy is always in peril, the government continues to become more unstable, and it seems we are always one step away from some catastrophic worldly event or the threat of scientific experiments gone wrong, causing a man-made apocalypse. Whatever the case may be, we live in constant fear of the “what if” circumstances. Anything seems possible in this day and age, and all you can do is try to be as prepared as you think you can be for the worst. Being prepared, however, does not ensure survival, but it sure does give you peace of mind over those that choose to ignore the signs around them. We have a saying in our house: “We would rather be prepared for nothing, then unprepared for everything.” We have used the little knowledge we have to try to raise our kids to think the same way! While each person thinks differently about how to be prepared, we have written what we think may help some people out who have smaller children. We are in no way, shape, or form experts; we just use our common sense. We practice basic principles, while having a minimal impact on our daily lives.

Having children adds a different element to our thought process of being prepared. Kids are ever-changing and growing; you never quite know what you can expect from them. How can you truly have a preparation kit for a child that doesn’t stop growing until they reach a certain age? How can you teach them to be cautious and pay attention to details, when they can only stay focused for minutes at a time? How can you teach them not to let fear dictate actions following a crisis, when they have no idea what the crisis may be? Running for your life and trying to survive is a lot more different then running out of Gold Fish, which is the closest to crisis most kids know about or understand!

As parents, we fear for the lives of our children everyday but now more then ever. However, we have learned to turn that fear into a useful tool! Visual aids and hands-on learning are a great way to keep our kids interested in what my husband and I are trying to explain to them. Since they are only four and seven years old, we already have our hands full. Our oldest son was diagnosed with combined type ADHD and a sensory processing disorder. This is where the visual aids and the hands-on learning come into play. The more we let them do makes the presentation feel more real and the better they pay attention. Always remember the first step in preparing your children is getting them to shut off the electronics! Not relying on electricity and technology is the way to go– no phones, Ipods, television, game systems, or what not. One night a week we practice electric-free night. We turn off “the electric” and live off the grid, so to speak. Granted, we live in an apartment complex, so we aren’t technically living off the grid. However, the kids get a sense of what it is like to not have the things they are used to and rely on!

There has to be something said about preparing for the unexpected while living with the unexpected. While shutting off the electric one night a week is a good start, it is just that– a start. While this teaches them not to be dependent on the electricity and electronic devices, it does not do anything for an outdoor living scenario. What if they had to be woken up in the middle of the night to bug out? While we have never actually woken our kids up at two in the morning for a bug out situation, we have started working with them on their endurance as well as our own. They may be little, but they have endless energy for short periods of time, and we have used that to our advantage. A 20-minute workout with a punching bag followed by a nice long walk on the trails close to home have done wonders. They also carry their own bug out bags. To some people, this may seem extreme. People will always criticize and have their opinions. As parents, only you can really know how much your child can take! We never push our children to accommodate what we expect of them! We are never pushing them to their breaking point, where the fun is lost. Teaching our children how to be prepared for their own sake is the best thing we can do for them. It has become such a normal part of our lives that the kids do not even question what we are doing anymore. It is second nature for them, and knowing this helps us sleep better at night. Though, knowing how much they depend on us still adds stress that you really cannot get rid of. As a parent you will always worry for your children and their well being.

As I mentioned before, our children do have their own bug out bags. While we like to think we will always be there for our children, we must also prepare them for what happens if we should become separated or worse. Their bags are light weight but pack all the essentials to get them through for a couple of days. You can’t really prepare them for being alone and separated from you, but teaching them how to stay calm and think logically will play an important role in their survival. In each child’s bag, they have:

The duck call was very important to us. We did not want the standard call of a whistle for fear that, if separated, it would draw additional attention from anyone else around. They are easy to use, and the kids love hearing the sounds they make. Every night before bed we all grab our bug out bags and make sure they are ready for the next day. The water gets swapped out every week to ensure they always have fresh bottles of water. We have also purchased a set of thermal-insulated coveralls and hiking boots for them as well. Since they always seem to grow, though, we purchase one size up from where they are now. While this gets pricey every six months, it ensures they will always have warm clothes and shoes to wear for at least six months.

Showing our children how to be still and alert is an entirely different struggle. They are, after all, children. Children want to run, play, and be loud. This has not been easy, and we are still working on it, though we always try to practice letting our kids be kids while they still can. We are teaching our oldest how to be patient, but at the same time we are teaching him how to use his ADHD to his advantage. While he does require medicine to pay attention at school, in the wilderness he can be himself. He is learning how to start fires with flint and fish with just a stick, string, and hooks. While we feel that our youngest is just too little yet to learn these things, there are a few things we have started working with him on. He enjoys collecting firewood, gathering edible plants with us, and using branches with leaves and tree limbs to build shelter. These are all very useful things, when living off the land. Teaching our kids how to live off the land was and is so important to us right now. They are accustom to prepared meals and not worrying where their next meal will come from. We have gathered many published works on edible and medicinal plants, bugs, and wildlife for our region as we could find. We read and research how to forage daily and learn new things as a family.

There are no struggles in life that are easy, and certainly none that are easy to go through with children. Patience is the foundation we have built on, as well as good old fashioned common sense. If people were more interested in helping each other rather then themselves, I doubt we would have a need for articles like this. If you read this and have small children, we encourage feedback and would love to hear how you are making preparations! We love hearing ideas, because we alone have not thought of everything and will never be able to think of everything. We would love to hear from parents with children who have ADHD/SPD or any other medical conditions. Again, we are not experts nor claim to be. We are concerned parents who have decided that it was time to get our kids to take a look at the things around them instead of the things in front of them. They are bombarded daily with distractions and are often not reminded of the beauty of nature and the benefits it can have on them. Hopefully no one reads this and thinks we are bad parents who are trying to push our views on our children. We just want what is best for them and feel having knowledge of certain things can only help them survive, should the situation ever become necessary. Knowing how excited they get for our “no electricity day”, we know they are at least retaining some of what we are trying to teach them. We are preparing for the worst while hoping for the best.