Some of Bear Grylls’ biggest fans are kids. Their eyes widen at his derring-do, and boys and girls alike admire his survival skills and savvy. However, the survival skills for kids that will keep them safe and sound are far more mundane! Below are four survival skills for kids to learn, along with a few tips for parents.
1. What To Do If They Get Lost
A lost child is a scared child, and usually their first instinct is to begin searching for their family. I remember being separated as a child from my parents at a department store. The feeling was so terrifying. My heart and thoughts were racing, though my thoughts were not organized. Looking around, frantically scanning faces and trying not to cry was all I could do. I was found and that experience helps me now as an adult. I know what children feel like when they are lost.
Whether your child is lost in a grocery store or on a hiking trip, the instruction is the same. Train your child to stop and sit as soon as he or she realizes they are lost. Assure them that no matter how scared they might be, you are searching for them at that very moment. Explain to them that you will be looking for them, but if they keep moving around, it will take longer to find them.
Consider equipping your child with an inexpensive cell phone and when venturing outdoors, a few survival items tucked in a fanny pack or their pockets. Items such as a whistle, a bright bandana and a bottle of water will go a long way to helping a lost child be found more quickly. This survival skill could save your child’s life.
Here’s a trick to teach kids about getting lost in the wilderness. The main concept is to attract attention using colors and sounds that don’t occur in nature. For example, to my knowledge there are no metallic silver animals or plants found in the wilderness, so an emergency blanket is a great signaling tool because it’s so obviously not part of nature.
Use rocks or whatever is available to create a rhythmic tapping: tap-tap-tap-tap, tap-tap-tap-tap or another pattern. Again, this repeated rhythm will attract the attention of anyone trying to find a lost child because it’s not a sound that naturally occurs in nature. Yelling or screaming becomes exhausting after just a few minutes, but even young children can learn either of these simple tricks to attract the attention of rescuers if they’re ever lost.
2. How To Answer The Door When They Are Home Alone
Usually, the best strategy is to not answer the door! Yes, the person knocking could be a burglar scoping out the neighborhood, but once the door is opened, it’s just that much easier for an intruder to enter, and children are easily overpowered. You could install a peephole at a lower level for them. Unless it is someone they know well, like grandma, they should not answer the door. Strict rules were made at our home concerning this. Friends were not allowed over while we were gone, except under certain circumstances. When the door is opened and closed with kids in and out, it leaves those in the home vulnerable to someone who is watching the home.
Train your child to keep doors and windows locked and blinds and curtains closed. Noise from a TV or radio is fine. Someone with questionable motives will think twice about entering a home if they hear noises inside, even if the house is closed up and no one answers the door. Children should know their address in case they need to call 911.
TIP: Are your kids quipped to handle these scary scenarios?
3. What To Do In A Medical Emergency
From a young age, kids can learn how to dial 911 and report an emergency, but this takes practice. Spend some time rehearsing phone calls, teaching your children to relay detailed information to an operator, follow his or her instructions, and then stay on the line until help arrives.
TIP: Read about 3 medical concepts you should teach your children.
If possible, they should also get the home ready for the arrival of EMTs by putting pets in closed areas and, if it’s nighttime, turning on both indoor and outdoor lights. Practice with them what you would like them to do in an emergency. Then do a dry run, with a variety of scenarios. Go over your dry run every summer, winter and spring break your kids have. They will develop more confidence in their skills the more they practice.
Summer is an ideal time for children to take first aid and CPR classes, and these are suitable for kids ages 9 and up. The Red Cross and community centers offer these type of classes. You can look for Red Cross classes in your area at http://www.redcross.org/ux/take-a-class
4. Situational Awareness
This one skill can help your child avoid many dangerous situations. It’s simply being aware of the people and events around you. Parents can help their children become more observant and aware, not by scaring them, but by playing games to teach and practice this skill. Remember to adjust the questions to the maturity and age of the child. Some questions (games) you can play are:
- When driving in the car, ask your kids to describe a building or vehicle you just passed.
- Teach them to pay attention to the route home by asking them to give you driving directions.
- Tell them to close their eyes and describe what someone in the room is wearing.
- Encourage them to check out the license plates of passing cars: Which states are they from? What is the sum of the numbers on the license plate?
- How many exits are there in the restaurant?
- What if? games as detailed here.
Being aware of their surroundings will help them avoid predatory people and other dangerous scenarios. Do not instill fear, it will not help, but training them will. There is more information about situation awareness you can learn about in this article and in this best-selling book by Gavin DeBecker, author of The Gift of Fear.
Our children have always been told that if they ever have that “gut feeling” that something is wrong, to believe it. As parents, we would believe them and take their side. Often, predators are people that the family knows, relatives, coaches, teachers, and neighbors. They can groom children for abuse and the children find themselves in a situation where they feel that something is wrong, but don’t want to disappoint the person.
Again, I reminded my children that they can leave the situation. Even if it is against the rules, there will be no consequences. Our children needed to know that they can trust that feeling inside of them, and we will trust it, too.
As you go about your errands and vacations this summer, ask your children questions and help them learn about situation awareness. These 4 survival skills are simple to teach, fun to practice, and quite possibly, life savers.