For older children, there are a variety of ways you can help them. The first is exposing them to the outdoors and teaching them the skills and knowledge you have learned. Do not rely on teachers, schools, or other adults to make sure they are prepared. Even if you have limited time with your children, small things can help. Every child should have some type of bug out bag at their main residence. This bag should cover these main categories: water, food, shelter, signaling, communication, and protection. Make sure that all items are age appropriate and they know how to use them. One thing that can be very important is survival cards. These are cards on which you have listed important information in simple, easy-to-follow steps. Have one for each main topic attached to the outside of the bag for easy reference.
Here is an example of one for an older child, who might be responsible for a sibling:
General Safety Card:
- Never split up.
- Drink plenty of purified water.
- Avoid angry or violent crowds.
- Run away together, if there is danger.
- Head to the main rally point on map.
- Stay dry.
Children are best at following clear and simple directions. Do not overcomplicate the process.
Older children may be capable of traveling to a designated location. Some circumstances may require that they have to travel. This is where the maps you have made are critical. Highlight primary (and secondary) routes and locations. Make sure you have clearly identified locations along the route that you might be able to intercept them. Add them to each child’s bag. You might even decide to have them leave a trail of markers as they travel. Supplying a colorful plastic tape with directions on where to leave pieces is one option. This could give you an edge in following or finding them. Just remember to make sure the markers do not expose their personal information or details to others that may cross the same paths. The most important part will be that they have a safe location (and a backup location) to head for, if the need arises.
Places to consider as rally points that children could easily find:
- Family homes (local)
- Fire stations
- Police stations
Younger children will need to be taught to shelter in place. They simply won’t be safe wandering around, and you will need to know exactly where you can locate them if the need arises. Their gear will be up to you to store. If you pull up to your child’s elementary school, would you have a change of clothes, a good comfortable pair of shoes, and a jacket? Do they need an inhaler or other medications? All of these items could easily fit into a small back pack. This means that you will need to start carrying a second bug out bag specific to them. If their spare items are in the closet at home when you get that phone call or see the news report, it will be too late.
Items to consider for a child’s bug out bag:
- Pictures of family members and contact information for each child. Most emergencies will have at least some level of response from local or state agencies. Make certain your child can be identified and that first responders can identify you easily.
- Extra shoes. For some reason,children are constantly taking off and losing their shoes. Most parents know this, but it is a good reminder to have an extra pair.
- Extra jacket or sweatshirt, for the same reason as the shoes
- Snacksand candy. A tired and cranky toddler can often be soothed with just a simple piece of candy or small snack.
- Small toys, games, or crayons and coloring books. Many survival situations involve extended periods of waiting. Keeping children occupied can make things easier for everyone.
Now let’s discuss a problem that could be common for many single parents.
One scenario to consider is that you are not able to retrieve your children. For example, you show up to get them and the other parent may not be able to travel or refuses to let the children travel. There may be policies in place at your children’s school that forbids releasing a child to non-custodial parents. Are you prepared to remain in the area for an extended period of time to watch over their safety? Have you considered the best way to handle a family situation? Do you have a plan for your children’s extended family? If you go to pick up your children from their grandmother’s house and she needs assistance, are you prepared to deal with that? What about a step parent or an in-law who is now involved? These are very uncomfortable topics for a single or divorced parent. They will be ignored by many people until it is too late.
Unfortunately, very few people have the lifestyle of a typical nuclear family with home schooled children on their self-sufficient homesteads. Millions must deal with absentee parental situations. And for the prepper community, this topic is one that is often ignored in favor of more exciting scenarios. The idea of a full-blown Mad Max-style breakdown may be fun for movies and television, but for parents there must be a real world examination of their lives and appropriate plans to fit those daily realities. Make time to address this topic now, not when your children’s lives may hang in the balance.
Sources quoted for divorces and single parent estimates: