Here it is: An effective plan to convince your loved ones to prepare

Any person who has begun to seriously prepare has had to make compromises between current wants and future needs, how much to spend on preparations, and how many people to stock supplies for.  If you’re married, you need to have a spouse that shares your concerns or you’re going to fight over every #10 can the mailman delivers.  I don’t need to go into detail on how much you should store,  how to store it, or what makes the cut on your List of Lists.  The purpose of this article is to help communicate the need to prepare with those in your family that you want to help without alienating them or downgrading your own preparedness plans. It is about how to convince your loved ones to prepare.

image by K. Kendall

I am a professional firearms instructor and am also employed full time as an emergency management planner.  Due to my job, my hobbies, and my personal beliefs, my former mother-in-law delighted in trying to insult me by calling me “Sgt. Tackleberry”.  She was unreachable, and I didn’t spent a lot of time trying to convince her of the importance in prepping.  She would rather buy timeshares of vacation property than spend money on a basic 72 hour kit.  That works for her, and I cannot judge her, but she would not be invited to,“come live with me if it ever did happen,” as she believed.

Other members of my family have thought my preparations were a, “phase”, or some harmless idiosyncrasy.  Those family members did not have a negative view of my preparations.  They mostly looked at my preparations with amusement.  They tolerated my teenage experiments with wild foods or earthquake kits.  As I have grown older and they have seen things on the horizon that will personally impact  them, they have begun to ask me for my opinion on coming winter storms or whether they should buy gold or guns.

It’s like being a firearm instructor and people asking you which gun to buy.  If you do your homework and build credibility, people respect you more.  If you take the long view and work diligently. these members of your family might be “converted” with patience and work.  While I cannot assume responsibility for them and make them prepare for disasters, I can be a role model and sounding board to help them understand the issues at play so they can build a plan that works for them.

image by ChalonHandmade

If the world as we know it collapses, it’s not only about survival.  Once your survival needs are met, you’re going to have to rebuild and continue with your life.  Having your loved ones with you makes that a lot easier.  The problem is that each person I add to my retreat lowers my safety margin IF MY SUPPLY AMOUNTS REMAIN FIXED, but if those people I add to my retreat bring their own supplies, it dramatically increases my safety margin.  To me it is definitely worth it to help your family prepare.

I have a few precepts that I use when dealing with family or friends on this subject.

  1. My first precept of dealing with family is not to preach.  My preparations are based on my needs and the things that I believe are important.  Each person has their own priorities, and preaching that you are right and they are wrong only pushes them away from the direction you need them to go.
  2. My second is never to prepare for a particular event.  I am sure there is still a lot of rotting food out there that was bought in bulk specifically for Y2K, and some of those that bought it are convinced it was a waste of money.  I tell my family that my food storage can be used for Y2K, Armageddon, TEOTWAWKI, Pandemic Flu, Nuclear Winter, Job loss, or when I just don’t feel like cooking.   By having an all-hazards approach and building capability and skills rather than building for specific events, my planning work gets more bang for the buck.  The first time I read of the “Deep Larder” was an “ah-ha!” moment for me, and changing my terminology has worked well in changing the response I get from my close loved ones.
  3. My last precept of helping my loved ones see the need to prepare is to foster an appropriate mindset instead of concentrating on gear acquisition.  I could buy my mom a Springfield Armory M-14 and 10,000 rounds of match ammo, but it would be much more effective to get her to go with me to the range a couple times and practice with a .22.  This would likely foster a desire to shoot, and then I could help her choose a firearm that fits her needs and desires.

Whenever the family conversation gets around to disaster preparation I bring up concepts like:

  • “Buying car insurance is considered a responsible action, but you don’t have any tangible benefit from buying it, if you never get into an accident.”
  • “With having a deep larder, even if zombies never attack, I still have the food.”
  • Or as Dave Grossman has said, “You never hear of elementary schools burning down but they all have fire extinguishers.”
  • My favorite is, “Noah built the Ark BEFORE the flood”.

imageby LivingOS

I try to break everything down into manageable bites rather than cram it in and have them tune me out.

The best case scenario is that your loved ones will see the need to prepare for themselves and begin planning and preparing on their own, therefore augmenting your plan.  You cannot out-argue someone into adopting your position.  As Dale Carnegie said, “Those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still.”  What has worked for me is a quiet and consistent approach.

I love my family and want what is best for them.  The best way I know to do that is to help them become more aware of the need to prepare.  My goal is to foster a sense of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility, and to help mentor them through the beginning steps of basic preparedness.

Think about how overwhelming it was when you first began to prepare.  There is a LOT to learn and even more skills and equipment to acquire.  We know that we cannot stock everything needed or prepare too much.  The process of preparing is every bit as important as the items you acquire.

Researching and prioritizing is mental prep work so that when a large disaster occurs we are not comatose with emotional overload.  If I coddle my loved ones and try to remove their responsibility to prepare by doing it for them, then I am doing them a disservice.  When hard times come, they may not be emotionally ready to deal with the collapse.  What’s worse is that making them dependent on my charity would cause strain on otherwise healthy family relationships.  Because of this, I feel it is worth supreme effort to work with my loved ones to prepare so that we can grow together in adversity and make our family bonds stronger.

image by US Army Africa

This year I had my breakthrough.  My parents asked me what they could do to prepare.  We had a very long discussion and came away with a workable plan.  At the time of our discussion their location was more favorable for a long-term retreat than my own, and they are going to provide the location and storage space for most of my preps.  We both win in the end.  Shortly after that discussion our town had an unusually long cold spell.  In the days before it we talked more about our short term plans and communication protocols and procedures.  While we did not have to evacuate to my parents, it was nice having all the details ironed out in the event we had to.

Disaster preparedness is not a fad or a short term race to buy a lot of cool gear.  It’s a lifestyle choice, and one that has a lot of benefits.  However, it comes the necessity of taking off the rose colored glasses.  Not everyone is ready to do this, but if you want to set an example and truly influence others, you must understand what you do is much louder than what you say.

Guest Post by David Nash, the owner of the Shepherd School and the author of Understanding the USE of Handguns for Self-Defense , a great book for new shooters, people who are thinking about becoming a new shooter, or just about anyone that wants to know about handguns in a no-nonsense, professional, but entertaining and non-stressful way.

There may be links in the post above that are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which does not affect the price you pay for the product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

© Copyright 2011 The Survival Mom, All rights Reserved. Written For: The Survival Mom
The following two tabs change content below.

Guest Poster

The Survival Mom has regular posters, but sometimes people only have one or two really great ideas, so what to do? Those are our guest posters! Sometimes, the guest poster is Anonymous. Our writers and contributors have families, homes, and jobs they want to protect, just like everyone else. Sometimes they want to write a post that contains information that could endanger one of those three, or upset someone they know in real life, so they post as Anonymous. "Anonymous" and guest poster content meets the same high standards you expect from the Survival Mom.

I want to receive updates and
EMP survival reports!


  1. rightwingmom says

    One of the biggest concerns many preppers face is whether or not to expose themselves to non-believers. Many have chosen to be VERY cautious and selective about who knows about their preparedness. In our experience, those family and friends we find that are like-minded, we: encourage, support and mentor each other. We also stress that we cannot provide for THEIR needs and urge them to keep our preparedness a secret, only revealing our beliefs to other like-minded people!

    I'm torn between shouting from the roof tops for ALL the people I know and love to get prepared vs. protecting my husband and kids from desperate people who ignored the 800 lb. gorilla in the room!

    I recently had a conversation with a family member. He is truly concerned about the economy and inflation. I took the opportunity to mention that due to coupon shopping, I had been able to buy items like shampoo and toothpaste (etc.) at remarkable low prices. Because the prices were so low, I grabbed a few and now have a stockpile to lean on during the hard times. (I stopped before divulging that I prep.)

    His response, "Yep, but you'll run out of those."
    (sigh….he sees the 800 lb. gorilla but can't see the solution!)

  2. woodnick says

    Working on my skills have changed some of my friends and family just over this year.Just taking them camping,fishing and shooting.And showing some of the younger children in the families about canning food and shooting have gotten the parents doing these things too.Small steps but I think it will help in the long run.

  3. JustAGuy says

    A point of view that I think one should adopt is to truly accept that "they" might be right and you might be wrong. Until you can honestly do that I doubt you'll have too much luck changing hearts and minds.

    So what do I mean? If "they" are 100% correct and the last three years of the economy are a blip and we'll be back to normal what does it mean for you? Did you buy a bunch of stuff you can't afford on credit? Do you have a bunch of stuff you don't need, can't use, and can't sell? Is that food going to rot? And what will that mean for you?

    If you can face that self evaluation without flinching and say, yes we expended some of our resources but we have still lead a happy, healthy, connected life and are on track to continue to do well then you get more credible. If you can add that with your deep larder you cook healthier from scratch meals instead of over processed convenience food, that you only need to buy most staples when they are on a great sale, that you enjoy using this stuff every day. Now you are getting somewhere… If you can talk about unplugging from the hectic pace of high speed communication and enjoy hiking and camping. If your kids are healthy and active and responsible (as kids can be expected to get). Now you sound convincing. Remember this is all with the Idea that they were right and you were wrong.

    If you can face that challenge and honestly say to yourself "Hey, our choices were not bad at all, even though the future is much better than we expected it to be." Then you are in the driver's seat. Because now we can wonder, what if in the future my prediction was correct and you, my dear-family-member-who-I-care-about-and-want-to-protect, were wrong? How would you get by in that not so sunny future? Again this is only once you have established that you will be doing pretty well in a sunny future.

    If they think you are betting heavy on a long shot who's to blame them for not following your lead.

    Extra tangent:

    I don't always find the insurance analogy,that so many espouse, convincing. Yeah, we pay for car insurance that we hope not to use. But we don't pay tens of thousands of dollars for it. We do not get divorced or alienate friends or family members for it. If we did others would have a right to criticize us for being dim bulbs. If I believe the odds of my house burning down were 1:1000 or 1:500 in any one year and my house costs $100,000 I should be willing to pay annually around $200 or a little more for fire insurance. I should realize that $5,000 is probably too much. And If I am willing to pay $50,000 a year to insure a house worth $100,000 knowing that there is only a 1:500 chance it will burn then I am being plain stupid.

    If we overthrow our lives and bet everything on a collapse others could rightly argue that we are "throwing our lives away" to save ourselves. A bet like that only makes sense if the odds are 1:1 on TEOTWAWKI. They would see it that we have mentally painted ourselves into a corner and now the only way to break even is for the house to burn down.

    • Liz Long says

      Wow. You don't get it. Or maybe you're replying to something from a different website. The posters here are not doing the things you are "accusing" us of, as you would know if you bothered to read much before replying. My kids love knowing that with a few exceptions (Nilla wafers and chips, particularly), we have whatever they want to eat on hand.

      My life experience solidly shows that there WILL be a power outage or other equipment failure and we will be without power and / or heat for hours or days. Two years ago, it was ice taking down the lines. The year before, it was trees in a lightening storm. Last year, it was a piece that blew on the furnace. So, in short, the news repeatedly demonstrates the wisdom of prepping.

      There WILL be a time when we cannot get to the grocery store for days or weeks, even if it is just because of various family members getting sick with the flu.

      There WILL be a natural disaster of some sort – massive hurricanes, tornadoes, wild fires, floods, freezing weather, excessive heat – SOMETHING. Sounds to me like you are in some massive denial yourself about both the nature of prepping (which is NOT the same thing as survivalism, which I think is more what you're ranting about) .

      As noted, most people don't even talk to their friends or family about it, much less alienate them or get divorced over it! I think most people here would agree that going into credit card debt or amassing food you will never eat is just plain stupid.

      • JustAGuy says

        Liz I didn't think I was ranting. I proposed a strategy (like the author of the article did) for preppers – I'm one of you – to be more convincing when dealing with doubtful relatives. My strategy: Consider that they may be correct – there may never be (I'm keeping my fingers crossed) a TEOTWAWKI. If you see your life continuing well in both hard and more sunny times then you are doing a GREAT JOB and will be a light in the darkness for your relatives. They will be more likely to listen.

        If we seem to our relatives more like the survivalists as you called them (not my distinction) then they will be unlikely to listen. Ask yourself what is the difference. I think the answer is what I was talking about – keeping within your means – considering both positive and negative futures and being prepared for both, staying connected to the people you love.

        I'm almost positive we are in nearly perfect agreement.

        But, let me quote you and challenge two things you took exception to:

        "most people don't even talk to their friends or family about it, much less alienate them or get divorced over it!"

        This article is written about how to not alienate your relatives – read the last sentence of the first paragraph. The author himself talks about his ex-mother in law. This is one of many discussions on this board and others how to get your relatives and significant others on board. Look at the comments in those – you will hear a lot of insults for the ex's. There are preppers and survivalists getting divorced I'm guessing that some of that is in part because of unreconcilable differences in world view.

        "I think most people here would agree that going into credit card debt or amassing food you will never eat is just plain stupid."

        How sure are you about that? I'm pretty sure that back in this forum it was a pretty contentious issue:

        Back then, you said you wouldn't go into debt, but others thought it was ok.
        And do we all really eat what we store? Really?

  4. woodnick says

    MOST preppers do not spend tens of thousands a dollars on being prepared.My food does not go to waste and I don't spend all my time prepping.I have lived through three floods and two blizzards that have shut us off from the outside world for days.The worse one was in 1977 that was 8 days of no power ,etc.Good thing my parents were prepared.I am not betting on a TEOTWAWKI .But I know people that buy their dinner from a fast food places and stores each night and don't have much food in the house with a group of kids.and I think the odds of me having to deal with a weather event is better than 1:500.Plus I don't think author wants really to alienate family members,cause my mother-in law isn't the greatest either.

    • JustAGuy says

      Prepping is good! Think about the future. Act in your self interest. Be ready to help your family and the ones you love and not be a unprepared hinderance.

      I'm not sure how that didn't come across in my post.

      The author certainly does not want to alienate family – that was the whole point of the article. But now be honest, why do we need articles on how not to alienate our families? Because maybe, just maybe, some of us are not doing a very good job at not alienating our families.

      I went beyond what the author suggested – making a logical arguement and convincing them of the wisdom or being prepared in the event of bad times. It seems to me to focus on convincing our families of our point of view. I suggested that a good strategy might be to not convince them that they are wrong and we are right.

      Instead we could argue that even in good times being prepared is not such a bad thing. And of course in bad times it will be very nice. Accept that you don't know what the future will hold, just like they don't, and tell them you honestly chose a path that works best for both good and bad times.

      If you can only defend what you are doing by making someone believe that the economy WILL collapse or the world WILL end, then don't be surprised that they aren't jumping in with both feet.

      Ok that's my second or third try to get my point across. Essentially the costs have to balance with the risks. People understand this. Don't expect to change their whole world view and get them to see risks where they never had before. Get them to see that the costs are so reasonable. Of course this only works if the costs are reasonable.

  5. Valerie says

    Hey JustAGuy, I just wanted to say your first post was great, and I think you did a great job of explaining yourself. Totally makes sense to me.

  6. bryan says

    I second that last reply, but I have a challenge that is slightly different. My Father saw his parents prepping due to their experience with the great depression, and his experience was that it was just a lot of work for little reward. He has been an extremely successful businessman, and is now independently wealthy and could prepare for anything if just he put his focus to it. However, every time I try to help him see the wisdom in a deep larder and ability to defend onesself, he acts as if I am being silly. He is ultra conservative, well respected in the community, has more resources than he knows what to do with, and his reply is usually this “you will most certainly see America come to great calamity in your lifetime, but I don’t see it happening in mine.”. I cannot describe how frustrating that is, but now I have a new plan of action. I will use the cost v. potential benefits approach for both being prepared and being unprepared. Hopefully he can see that just a fraction of his resources spent could mean enhanced survival for a large comunity should disaster ever strike. Thank you for this article and the excellent replies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *