What Do You Tell the Children?

January 16, 2012


What to tell the kids about the prepping supplies

For most of us who are “prepping” for an uncertain future, our families are our primary motivation.  I have often heard people say that they love their spouse/children/siblings/etc., and so they prepare.  Sometimes that is because those loved ones refuse to see the wisdom or are incapable of acquiring needed supplies for financial or other reasons.  In the case of children,it is because they are dependent on us to provide for all their needs.

As you begin to take those steps to stock food and other needed items, you may have to get creative with where you will store it.   There is a good possibility that they will notice if you begin storing bins of first aid supplies and rice under their beds.  Then what do you do?

How much do you tell the children?

There is not one easy answer to that question.  It will depend in part on your reasons for preparing.    Your main motivation for preparing may be just to tide you over through an ice storm until power is restored.  On the other end of the spectrum, you may be expecting the entire economy to come to an abrupt end any time now.  Given those differences, how you present your reasons for preparedness could be pretty different.

Some things you may want to consider when deciding what to share with them and how to say it could be the following:

  1. the age of the child(ren)
  2. the temperament of the child(ren)
  3. how much your plans will impact their everyday lives

1.  Age

The age of your children will certainly factor into what you tell them.  If you and your spouse are concerned that a spike in oil prices may set off a chain reaction of soaring food prices, riots, lay-offs, and so on, that will likely impact how you choose to spend available cash.   You may think you should fill the pantry as soon as possible.  Your 4 year old probably doesn’t need to know all the reasons behind that.  She will grow up soon enough.  Besides, at that age, they are very adaptable and she’ll adjust to the changes easily.

On the other hand, if your 16 year old is after you to buy the latest cool basketball shoes, it may be reasonable to just tell your teenager he could mow grass to buy them himself, but you may want to explain what he is probably hearing in the news anyhow.  It’s likely he is mature enough to appreciate the explanation.

2.  Temperament

In the above example, you may have a happy-go-lucky teenager who always sees the glass half-full.  You can tell him your observations about some unstable regions of the world and how events there could impact the U.S.  It will give him some things to think about, but he won’t lose any sleep.  Even if you tell him that money may get a little tight, he will probably take it in stride.

On the other hand, if your child is more the pessimist or worrywart, you may choose your words differently.  Your wording with this child may be more along the lines of how you’ve noticed that food prices seem to be slowly but steadily increasing and so you think it would be wise to go ahead and buy extra groceries now so you can save money in the long run.  You’ll have more opportunities to expand on this in future conversations once he has absorbed that.

3.  The impact of your plans

If the changes you plan to implement will be subtle (like going “meatless” for dinner a few nights a week, trying new recipes using beans, and making a point to store water each month), these won’t overly impact or concern the kids.  When the topics come up, you can simply state that you are trying out some new things to trim the budget or become healthier and you think it’s a good idea to have extra water on hand.  Again, you can flesh out these reasons more as they come up again.

In a subsequent conversation, you may mention that you have been considering buying a pressure canner.  If they say they’d rather go to the amusement park, you can point out that they are welcome to work towards a theme park trip, but that being able to preserve your own garden produce is important for reasons X and Y.

If your plans will have a larger impact like moving to a farm, miles away from all their friends, you will need to prepare for some opposition.  The older the children are, the more resistance you will probably get.  Bringing them around will probably go better if you can outline all the benefits to them.

What We Did

telling kids about preppingWhen we made the move our oldest ones were still pretty young, but we kept mentioning how nice it was going to be to have wide open spaces around- no more worrying about breaking the neighbors’ windows just by tossing the ball around in your own back yard.   And we can get more animals.  And we can join 4-H.  And there are big trees to climb.  And ponds to fish in.   And so on.

If we were moving at their present ages, I think we would tell them a lot of what they have come to know over the years we’ve been here, but in small chunks.  We can grow our own food and know what goes in it.  We can preserve it and largely insulate ourselves from wild food price fluctuations or shortages.  We can save our seeds and not be dependent on GMO agribusiness.  Being in a lower population density, we can be safer from violent crime and infectious diseases.  You get the idea.

If they are very “wired in” and used to the instant conveniences of the present day big cities, they probably won’t care much about any of those things initially.  It may take pointing out how fragile and time-sensitive these conveniences are to get them to start thinking about “what if.”  A refresher on the Great Depression and some other pertinent history may help them understand a little better.

But don’t be too shocked if your adolescents don’t embrace your plan with open arms.  That is the nature of being a teenager.  Just do what you believe to be right as their parent- at worst, they tease you years from now because life as we presently know it continued to hum along without a hiccup.  You can just smile and tell them how happy you are to have been wrong.  At best, years from now they will be telling their own children how wise you are for your forethought.

Common Sense

A lot of this may seem like “Duh” kind of stuff, but I have been asked what people should tell their children quite a few times.  It seems that many parents feel they should just do all their prepping on the sly and hope their children don’t notice.  I am definitely not advocating a “zombie apocalypse” type of approach with kids, but in reality, you want to introduce some changes to their thinking.  They will be better mentally prepared if you explain your rationale for your physical preps.

Coming Up

One critical element not well covered here is fear.  That can be a serious problem, so it is worthy of a posting unto itself.  Look for a piece on that topic next week.

Soon after that, I have a posting about ways you can encourage your children to get involved in preparing in helpful and healthy ways.

How have you handled this topic with your children?  How did they receive it?  Any words of wisdom?  Please share in the comments section.

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14 Comments on “What Do You Tell the Children?”

  1. CeAdams Says:

    Our children are young. We have a 3 1/2 year old son, a 11 month old son and one on the way. Since we have been prepping since before the 3 1/2 year old was born this is just normal to him. He has started to take a bigger interest in the BOB’s – especially those in the cars. But he just accepts them as being there. He does like to help when we practice emergency tent set up and fire building, so we give him small task to do. Things like gathering twigs for the fire, holding tent stakes, carrying the canteen of water… It makes him feel valuable and is teaching him skills (even though he doesn’t know it) and so if/when the time ever comes that we actually have to use these skills to survive it will be very familiar to him. Our house is short on storage space so the “baby’s room” is also the large pantry.


  2. Jeff Says:

    I am fortunate in that I started prepping when my son was 3 or so and he is 5 1/2 now, he just accepts that the way we live is the way we live and storring extra food is just what is done. It also helps that my extended family also preps.


  3. Laura Says:

    Our younger children have never known any different either. That is a blessing. Our older ones are so accustomed to it all now that it never occurs to them not to say or show too much to others. I was recently chagrined when one of our sons inadvertently revealed a whole additional pantry in an old entertainment center. He just needed more peanut butter and it didn’t occur to him that his friend would see it jammed full and think it odd. The friend commented about it. Oops.

    Gotta work on that a bit. No need to show it off.


  4. John Says:

    My “kids” are 23 and 13…I tell them “the truth”. The world is getting to be a scary place. They accept that. The economy being what it is, the 23 year old is back at home. My 20 month old grandson, he will grow up knowing to “Be prepared”…it is more than just the scout motto! I’ve taught the to shoot, fish, camp, cook over a fire, scavenge wild foods…and most importantly, to think independently and objectively.

    (sorry old eagle scout here, who still believes the scout oath and laws are a pretty darned good foundation to live by!)


    • Laura Says:

      No apologies necessary, John. We are big believers in Boy Scouts. Our oldest should make Eagle this year. He is busy planning his project now.

      We are truthful with our children too, but we choose our words carefully when we talk to them. This goes for more than just preparedness. We also want them to be thinkers and draw their own conclusions given a set of facts. We hear so often about children leaving home and turning their backs on everything they grew up with. I figure that has a lot to do with whether they personally believed in what they were taught or not. What was imposed upon them or just told to them would be a whole lot easier to discard than what they have come to know for themselves.

      Thanks for your comment.


    • dextrollc88 Says:

      I agree that the best way to prepare children is to tell the truth in simple terms that each child can understand at his/her individual stage of development. Young children think in concrete terms as opposed to adolescents who are mature enough to comprehend some (but perhaps not all) of the parents’ rationale for the truth.
      One way to approach the subject is to teach by example, and let the child ask questions. Answer each question directly and simply – then STOP. Even better is if you end with an open question, such as, “Do you have more you want to talk about?” This lets the child know that you are a ready listener who cares about how he/she feels about the current subject or other subjects that have not yet been shared with the parent. If the child has further concerns, the child will continue the conversation. If not, the child probably feels reassured, and no further explanation is necessary at this time. The subject may and frequently will, come up again later, and the process continues. This approach builds trust, strengthens relationships, and works across all age groups, based upon my training and experience as a psychiatric nurse.


  5. Katrina Says:

    Our children are married with little ones of their own…. For them prepping is just part of their lives. When birthdays or Christmas comes around they get useful items not video games. We got some walkie talkies for our grandsons (twins) for Christmas. They may think it’s just a great toy, but it can also be very useful when TSHTF. We buy a lot of our supplies from They got great food and lots of emergency preparation items at decent prices. So the twins got their walkie talkies, my son got a Volcano stove and our daughter a sun oven… She loves it!


    • Laura Says:

      Great gift ideas, Katrina!

      I’d like a sun oven sometime, but I think we may build one from scratch eventually.

      I’m with you about video games. Sure, playing them occasionally is alright, but I’d far rather see them doing something constructive. Our youngest daughter was delighted to receive a do-it-yourself birdhouse for her last birthday. That may seem like its only preparedness for the birds, but she will learn basic skills by putting it together.

      Thanks for your comment.


  6. popwiz15 Says:

    Hey 13 year old here, and neither of my parents are preppers but I think that we should be. So…yeah.



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