How to talk to children about what's coming

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silviatic's picture
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How to talk to children about what's coming

Hi there,

I have been reading a lot, follow this and similar forums and blogs. I have also started some preparations, such as growing a vegetable garden and stocking some food away in a pantry, learning new skills, etc.

Although I have mentioned (to my children) in a very general way that the times ahead will be difficult, I don’t know how to talk to them about what we call “peak oil” that also includes financial, environmental and other predicaments.

I googled it but didn’t get anything clear. Is anybody aware of resources such as books or websites, movies or documentaries about this subject for children? My kids are big enough to “get it”, but I don’t want to overwhelm them or make them feel they don’t have a future. I have reviewed "the age of stupid", "the 11th hour" and many others but they are either too technical or too pesimistic for children. My kids are 11 and 16.

If you have firsthand experience doing this with your children, any ideas are welcome.

Doug's picture
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My kids were about 16 and 14 when we started prepping.  I just tried to relate concepts to their daily lives and used charts and graphs because I always learned best from visual representations.  They were and are involved in gardening, taking care of the chickens and planting fruit trees when they are home.  They are familiar with precious metals and have seen many of the forms in which they can be purchased.  Although secondary education was inadequate in preparing them for rigorous college studies, they were at least able to understand the exponential function, compound interest and bell curves.  They have both fired a range of guns and my son has taken a particular interest.  The idea of saving has been drummed into their heads from a early age.  Whenever they asked relevant questions we took the time to make sure they understood our answers and we exposed them to videos and articles along the way.

Basically, it just becomes a way of life.  Kids adapt well and just grow up thinking whatever you're doing as normal.  It's only later they discover that you are a bit eccentric.laugh


Amanda Witman's picture
Amanda Witman
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Posts: 409
Great topic.  My kids are 8,

Great topic.  My kids are 8, 10, 12, and 14, and I started talking with them about these things 4-5 years ago.  We talk about how it's practical to be prepared for things that could reasonably happen and cause inconvenience to our family.  We talk about the our consumerist culture, the ways our family has chosen to unplug from that influence, the reasons why that feels healthy and prudent.  I talk with my kids about values.

I talk through the choices I make, and keep them as transparent as I feel is healthy, so my kids understand the reasoning.  I let them help me problem-solve when appropriate.  As I consciously change my practices so I can better "walk the walk," I help my kids understand why.  Why did I choose to buy local peaches this week instead of buying imported strawberries?  Why did I tell them to put on a sweater and not bump the thermostat up when they were cold?  Why do we homeschool?  Why don't we have a TV?  Why did I cook only a little meat with a lot of vegetables for dinner, when they love meat and would like to have three times as much?  Why did we spend time searching for a used item when it would seem simpler to go straight to the big-box store and buy a new one?  Why did I do a little dance when I saw the electric bill go down last month?  Why do we compost all biodegradable waste when other people they know throw everything in the trash?  Why do I think bananas and avocadoes are such a treat (here in northern New England)?  Why do we have so much stuff in the cellar and garage?  Why do I take my time connecting with friends I run into on the street, when the kids would rather head home?  Why do we combine our errands when we go to town, even though it's a drag to do it that way?  Why do I refuse to buy bottled water when they love it?  Why did we give up our big, grassy yard to move to a small lot in town?  Why do we give and receive recycled ("gently-loved") presents instead of new?  Why do we spend a moment at our evening meal noting and thanking the local farmers and friends who grew our food? And on and on.

I think it's all about modeling how we integrate our values into everyday life.  It's no different than if we were not preppers.  To me, prepping is not about doomsday lectures (for example), it's about integrating prudent practices into everyday life, practices that are not necessarily modeled in mainstream culture.  We are gently swimming upstream.  I think the key word with kids is "gentle" -- they are going to take our lead, and if we present this stuff as matter-of-fact, fact-of-life, this-is-just-how-we-do-things, no-big-deal, our kids will not panic or stress.  They may express disappointment (as mine did when we cut back on meat, stopped recreational shopping, tightened our budget, etc.)  And they are entitled to say how they feel.  And yet we parents hold the line..."I know you wish it was different.  I feel that way too sometimes.  This is how we do things now."  I think one of the best things we can ask our kids is, "What do you think?" regarding the choices we make, and then just listen without judgment to what they have to say.

One thing I have learned in 14 years of making thoughtful, often "alternative" parenting and lifestyle choices, is that it doesn't matter what everyone around you thinks or does.  People who don't understand or who feel threatened by "differences" will not be supportive and they may be unkind.  You may choose to be discreet about your family's choices (especially if your community has few or no likeminded members), or you may choose to be visible and open about these things.  In all cases, where kids are concerned, I think it's important to take your kids into account in deciding how to navigate that.  We are lucky to live in a place where my kids were able to grow up (so far) feeling like "everyone" homeschools, wears secondhand clothes, grows some of their own food, lives frugally (of choice or necessity), etc.  Now that they are older, the world is wider and they're seeing other ways, but when they were little they took this mindset for granted.  If it's possible to connect with likeminded families who have similar-aged kids, do it.

I feel it's important for me to impart to my kids that every family is going to make different choices around these issues, and it is not ours to judge their choices.  We make the choices we make because we value certain things over others, and while we talk about our family's preparedness and prudency, it does not mean we disparage others for making different choices, even though we think we're doing the "right thing" (for our family).  It's a bit tricky to walk that line when others around them, their peers and friends, have parents who are not on board with the prepper stuff.  If they compare us to them -- and they will, and do -- I put the focus back on our reasons for our family's choices. 

But more to your question about how to talk to kids about these issues...  I tell them the world is changing, as it always has throughout the generations, only it's changing particularly fast right now.  I tell them that our currency will be worth less and less in time, and that we need to be strategic in their education so they can have a better chance of supporting themselves (via cash or barter) when the time comes.  I'm planning to require all of my kids to apprentice or intern at a trade or craft that involves making, producing, or fixing useful things.  They can pick another direction to go in if they choose to, but they need a solid set of fallback skills. 

I tell them not to be afraid, because many smart people in the world are seeking solutions to the issues at hand, the adults in their life are looking out for their needs, and our family is taking smart steps to increase our resiliency.  I tell them to trust they can rely on themselves and each other to make good decisions in hard times.  I remind them to enjoy the luxuries we have now -- to see them as luxuries not take them for granted, so it is not such a shock later on.  (Hot water, flush toilets, abundant food, constant electricity, "modern conveniences"...)  We may enjoy them for a long time yet, but if that ends, we will know we enjoyed them to the fullest while we could.

We talk about basic needs.  We have conversations like, what would you do if...  how would you get your needs met if...  (not scary scenarios; just thought problems.)  How could our family get water if the tap stopped running?  How would we stay warm if the heat stopped working?  If we had to eat from only the food in our house for two weeks, what would we cook, and how would that be?  If the lights go out, what would we do for fun?  If our car broke...  And so on.

We talk about resource scarcity when it comes up in conversation -- electronics parts break and need to be disposed of, why pennies aren't made of copper anymore, why I bug them to not waste water, etc.

For what it's worth, both of my older kids were ready and interested in watching the Crash Course by age 11 or 12.  Their response? "Why don't more people GET this stuff?!"  To them, it's normal.

This may not be exactly what you were asking, but hopefully it will be helpful to someone

jrf29's picture
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The greatest lesson: the future isn't a fearful thing

You know, children are so amazing because they get their idea of what is good and bad from their parents and other teachers.  If a subject causes their parents angst and worry, then it will worry the child.  If the parent speaks about things like economic collapse, but emphasizes that change is not necessarily bad, then the child can be made to adopt the same attitude.  There is no need to hide facts. 

Children should be introduced to facts as soon as they are able to grasp them, because the job of the parent is to teach the child how to deal with the realities of life in a positive and happy way.

I personally would never tell a child that there are difficult times ahead, because they might actually internalize that message.  Instead, I would tell them that things will be different in the future, but that's OK.  Tell them that change isn't to be feared, but viewed as an opportunity to learn and grow. 

Tell them often that money and material possessions are helpful tools and should not be despised, but it is important not to become attached to them.  Tell them that people may have fewer material possessions when they grow up, and this means that they will have to help their neighbors.

Tell them that everything in life is temporary.  This means two things: (1) Whatever they have, they will eventually have to let go of, but (2) no matter how bad things seem today, tomorrow is a new day.

Tell them that happiness is a choice that they make inside of themselves, and that they truly can be happy no matter what is going on in the outside world. 

And repeat these things often.  You can give a child a greater gift than factual knowledge: you can give your child the ability to face the realities of the world without fear, which is the best gift you can give them aside from love.  (Of course, this is all just my opinion.)

Poet's picture
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Raising Children in Changing Times, Children Of The Crash

I'm really loving the feedback so far. Amanda's especially was a wealth of practical information.

I'd also like to point you to an article/essay by Dianne Monroe in the official "What Should I Do?" series that directly addresses your very concerns:

Raising Children in Changing Times (July 1, 2011)
"If you have children in your life – as a parent, grandparent, educator, or in any other way, the question of “What Should I Do?” takes on a particular urgency. You have likely asked yourself how you can enable them to navigate the complex and uncertain times ahead – to greet the future with creativity, flexibility, resilience, and joy."

Also of interest is a forum topic and discussion on...

Children Of The Crash (May 19, 2009)
"I’ve found myself wondering, of late, whether parents of young children have given any thought to how The Crash and subsequent Rebuilding of Civilization will affect the way they parent. It has also crossed my mind that older 'children' will need some kind of explanation for our contracting and evolving lifestyles, and I’ve been wondering how those conversations are going."

Lastly, the site's wiki on Emotional Resiliency may be helpful, too.


RJE's picture
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Just lead by example. Kids

Just lead by example. Kids will follow instruction in very basic terms. See plastic on the ground then recycle. We do this with our grand kids and have always shown it better to be respectful of the environment even if others have not, There is no excuse to bad behavior but to not address bad behavior by not picking up the discards of others is unacceptable too.

Children do not need to understand that which is not their reality. Let them dream their dreams and if asked is when you answer such complex questions.

Let kids be kids in other words, and please require of them to use their bodies to propel them where they must go. DO NOT buy them the latest electric car and have them use these items to get around, Honestly, so ridiculous to me that if their parents (my son or daughter in law) bought them one I would tear the wiring out. This action would have to be followed up with the promise to pay for that item, and then I would buy the boys a bike if necessary. My son would never buy a motorized anything to ride, thankfully.

For clarity, I absolutely are in total and complete love for my grand sons, and think it proper to let the world come to them and pay careful attention when they ask questions. Other than that it is golf at the range, wiffle ball, basketball, and every kind of activity. Then reading and Tigers games on the radio or TV only after completely exhausting myself as they are never for a loss of energy. 



gyrogearloose's picture
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Posts: 549
good thread..

very short on time, today, not at comp very often at moment, so just for tracking.....  will read later.


Cheers Hamish

RJE's picture
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Posts: 1369
Amanda, just a special

Amanda, just a special posting.

Having been raised with 15 family members, 13 Brothers and Sisters, and Mom and Dad  I can assure you that life is in fact  rewarding, full of love, and you still dream your dreams, and very important to truly understand is that kids will adapt, and through the examples set by the parents and older siblings. Their lives up until leaving home is looked at through a different prism. I can promise you this, your rather large family in today's terms are very fortunate for your examples. Here is what you will notice many years from now, your children will always carry your values, and by extension will always be contributors to society. They will have their stories that will be shared at many family gatherings, and a new generation will be made, and Grandma will be shown love by her new grand babies that she will have never known. Very nice,



Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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Posts: 1988
Amanda, that's exactly

Amanda, that's exactly right.

Your post on this topic is probably the best thing I've seen on the subject and I am sure it will help many people.


mobius's picture
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Joined: May 18 2009
Posts: 160
Second that!

Amanda, I really enjoy your posts.  Keep 'em coming.

Cheers, Jo

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