An emergency evacuation is scary, stressful, and frantic. How would your child handle themselves in that situation? How would he or she react if given stern, swift orders in a highly charged, dangerous scenario? No one knows what their exact response would be, but if we carefully observe our kids, we can get a good idea of their set of survival skills. I’ll show you what I mean.
A few nights ago our whole family ventured out on a two-mile family walk around the neighborhood. With us were two of our unruly dogs, excited to get out of the house and straining at their leashes. The walk was good excercise and lots of fun, but ultimately, it provided some helpful insights about my kids and survival.
Our ten year-old daughter asked to walk Delcie, our black Basenji. She has been taught how to hold a leash correctly and did a beautiful job keeping Delcie on a short leash, right at her side. They kept a quick pace, and she remembered to look both ways before crossing each street. Generally, she looked where she was going and stayed focused on the path. A natural introvert, she was content to enjoy her walk without needing to converse with anyone. However, she stayed several yards ahead of us and never looked back to make sure she was still with the group. At times she was too far ahead to hear us unless we yelled.
Mr. Sunshine, our eight year-old son, was a different story entirely. He stayed within just a couple of feet of us and chattered the entire way. He kept an irregular pace as he walked. Sometimes he lagged behind, and sometimes he walked so closely that we nearly tripped over him. At other times he’d race ahead of the group. He was eager to walk Tano, the chubbiest of our Basenjis, but had to be reminded more than once to not let her take him for a walk! His attitude was always positive, even when I had to take over Tano’s leash for both their sakes.
This simple family outing gave me a pretty good idea of my kids’ current survival skills and in what areas they need more training. Based on my observations from that night, here is how I scored each of them in seven different areas.
Retains information and training
Daughter A, Son B-
Takes direction with a positive attitude
Daughter B, Son B+
Follows safety rules and procedures
Daughter A, Son B
Pays attention to surroundings
Daughter B, Son B
Daughter A, Son C
Handles frustration/stress well
Daughter C, Son B+
Daughter A-, Son B
You probably won’t find these skills listed on your child’s school report card, but maybe they should be. I’m proud of my son’s ability to read books above his grade level, but if we were faced with the need to load up our Tahoe quickly for an evacuation, I’d be even more proud of his ability to maintain a positive attitude under stress and follow directions. My daughter excels in accepting responsibility and following through, both vital traits to surviving in school, on the job, or in a crisis.
I would argue that each of these skills are actually more important to survival than practical skills such as starting a fire, setting up a campsite, or target shooting. I can’t imagine taking my kids out to a shooting range if they were unpredictable, couldn’t follow directions, and had little self-discipline. How eager would you be to put a box of matches in the hands of a youngster who is consistently disobedient? Every minute you invest in teaching and reinforcing this set of survival skills will pay big dividends as you watch your child develop into a reliable and mature family member.
What grades would your kids earn on this Survival Skills Report Card? Whatever their current grades, there’s always room for improvement and more instruction. A crisis requires family teamwork, and having responsible, trained kids will help make even a worst-case scenario less stressful and more survivable.
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