Will your teen behave like…well, a teen…when the SHTF?
I watched the National Geographic show American Blackout on Sunday night with a friend. This part in particular got us thinking about the psychology of teenagers and young adults.
Let’s be realistic about teenagers.
If you have one, know one, or have been one, you know that they are a breed apart. Most of this is a mixture of biology and psychology, and it affects different kids to different degrees.
Some merely find their parents to be rather embarrassing, others think mom and dad are complete idiots, and then you have teens who are outright rebels.
If your child attends a public school, watches television, hangs out with other kids, or has any exposure to popular culture whatsoever, you can be assured that society is trying to create kinder, gentler children, aka sheep who will be easily led to slaughter. They are taught to fear the very word “gun” through the ridiculous zero tolerance policies, like the one at a Texas school which recently punished a student for wearing a t-shirt with a Bible verse and the words, “God, Guns, Country” on the sleeve, because it might “incite fear” among the students.
Furthermore, those of us with a liberty mindset spend a great deal of time teaching our kids to be critical thinkers and not to blindly follow orders just because someone is an “authority figure.” We teach them to stand up for what they believe is right, regardless of the consequences.
When the SHTF, that “think for yourself” mentality can be a real Catch-22 that can backfire, as is illustrated in the clip above. Later in the program, the young man snuck into the food supply and gave away rations to the neighbors under the cover of darkness. This resulted in an armed attack on the compound by the same people to whom he was dispensing charity.
Now, in all fairness, the boy in the clip is the daughter’s boyfriend and was not raised by the prepping dad. However, can’t you easily imagine an idealistic young person intent on “doing right thing” taking a similar action?
Instilling the Preparedness Mindset in Young People
This is why it is so very vital to teach the preparedness mindset to the young people in your life. It isn’t enough merely to tell them WHAT they should do. The nature of the beast – ummm…I mean teenager…is that you must also impress upon them why you should take these actions.
This requires a great deal of attention to consequences and to the study of disaster and unrest scenarios. There is another fine line to draw here – you don’t want to terrify your child, but you must impress upon them that during an unusual scenario, unprepared people behave in predictable ways. The media tries very hard to downplay these predictable behaviours, but incident after incident has shown us that when disaster strikes, you can anticipate the reactions of hungry and frightened people.
Some of you may have raised ideal teens who are completely in line with everything you say, and I salute you for this and would love to hear how you’ve accomplished this feat. In my own parental experience, though, as wonderful, intelligent, beloved, and well-adapted as my daughters are, this has not been a perfectly smooth journey. Between hormonal surges, the psyche’s struggle for separation from the parent, the traumatic and shocking death of a parent, and the yearning for independence, sometimes our own home has been like a cross between the floor of Congress and a post-disaster looting party.
Despite this carnival of fun, we can’t lock them safely away from the world and slide food through an opening in the door until they reach an age where their judgement is unimpaired by all that is teendom. It falls upon us to teach our kids:
- The importance of secrecy regarding preparedness supplies, bug out locations, and prepping in general (OPSEC)
- How and when you can safely help others
- How to assess a disaster situation and predict the next move of the unprepared people that may be around you
- How to get home or to a designated meeting place if they are away from home with the SHTF
- How to deal with the most likely disasters in your area
- Mob psychology in the event that they are with a large group of people or in a public place when disaster strikes
- Basic survival skills like finding safe water to drink, foraging for food, using a compass, and self defense
Here are some teaching methods that seem to work well with my girls:
Watch current events unfold together. When Hurricane Sandy struck one year ago, we watched the events on different news sites on the internet. We saw the terror in people’s faces, heard about their hunger, discussed the fact that folks were urinating and defecating in the stairwells of their apartment buildings, and then “toured” the devastation the day after. We witnessed the unprepared shoving each other and fighting over a jerrycan of gasoline and saw them standing in line for hours to receive nothing more than an MRE and a tepid bottle of water. This opened up a lot of discussions about why we do what we do in this household, as well as talks about how some of the problems we were watching could be solved with some simple critical thought.
Involve them in preparedness. Take them with you for a fun-filled day at the LDS Cannery. (Okay, bribe them if you have to!) Teach them to garden or can. Find ways to share your off-beat skills with your kids by zeroing in on the things they most enjoy, like target practice or caring for livestock.
Discuss the mob mentality every time you see it happen. This is one of the best ways to emphasize the importance of OPSEC. By watching people riot and pillage through the city streets in the aftermath of a disaster, you can clearly illustrate the thin veneer of civilization. When the EBT cards failed a couple of weeks ago, I happened to be at the grocery store with my youngest daughter. We watched as a woman harangued the cashier relentlessly when her card didn’t work, and then stormed out of the store when I said something in the young man’s defense. Her cart joined a dozen others which had been angrily abandoned, shoved into a display of salsa and and sending some glass jars to shatter on the ground.
Practice your prepping skills. Center your recreational activities around learning handy skills. Go camping, hiking, or orienteering. Learn to wildcraft and forage for food. Teach your kids needlework and other crafts. Let them have their own patch of garden for which they are responsible. Have a “lights out” weekend to drill for off-grid scenarios. Go to the range for target practice. Learn archery and martial arts. Play laser tag and paintball.
Find apocalyptic movies, books, and television shows. Even fictionalized depictions of societal breakdowns can really help to illustrate what happens when disasters occur. American Blackout, although unrealistic in places, opened up several discussions with my youngest daughter. Shows like , The Walking Dead, and Revolution, books like Lights Out and One Second After, or movies like The Grey, Red Dawn, Contagion, World War Z, and 2012 can open the door to some very interesting conversations and concepts. Actually watching the dramatic events occur, complete with characters to whom you can relate, even when it’s occurring fictionally, can make it more real to your youngster. This has the added benefit of proving that maybe Mom and Dad aren’t quite as crazy as the teen squad may have thought.
Ask them to predict what they think will happen. When some startling event occurs, even one on the other side of the world, be sure to ask your teen’s opinion on the matter. For example, when the Fukushima disaster struck, we spent time researching ways to protect ourselves from radiation and discussing how much better it would be if people could stay in their homes drinking their stored water and eating their stockpiled food instead of standing out in the open air, waiting in line to get something to eat and drink. Talk about safety in those events and ask what they would do to stay safe if they happened to be present during such an occurrence.
Find examples of when failed OPSEC caused problems. Like in the episode of American Blackout cited above, the boy broke OPSEC and let the neighbors know that the family had stores of food that they were not willing to share. There are many events in which someone tries to help, only to become a target for desperate and unscrupulous people.
Communication, as you can see, is the key to all of these tactics. Make it entertaining and interesting, and be sure to always ask their opinions. Even if their theories on how to deal with a problem are not the same that you would suggest, be careful not to shoot them down – instead, go deeper into the discussion and point out the pros as well as the cons.
How have you mentally prepared your teenagers to be an asset instead of a risk? Please share your ideas in the comments below.
Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor. Her website, The Organic Prepper, offers information on healthy prepping, including premium nutritional choices, general wellness and non-tech solutions. You can follow Daisy on Facebook and Twitter, and you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org