Although you may be preparing your family for emergency, disaster or catastrophe, if you are not actively preparing your children and including them in your plans, you are not as prepared as you might think. Including the kiddos in all of your prepping and planning can create a knowledge base that empowers them to aid in overcoming stress in the event of an actual emergency.
Children need structure and predictability to thrive and feel safe. If an emergency strikes and you are the only one in the family that has been preparing, the child's traumatic experience of the events and stress hormone levels will be exponential in comparison to yours. Emergencies are not predictable or structured. But, you can help your family to "feel" as though the emergency had structure by planning, discussing, preparing and practicing.
As you approach prepping, keep in mind the important steps that are involved in preparing and prepping your children. Children love to have input. Allow the kids a voice, some choices and explore their thoughts on possible scenarios and what they think they would do in those events. Very young children should not partake in discussions that might frighten them as they do not have a developed sense of "possibility" and may take every conversation far too literally and feel afraid. Always adapt to the child and find new and interesting ways to involve them without scaring them.
The first step is to prepare yourself, your spouse (if you have one) and your children to begin to actively prepare for whatever emergency may come your way. A great way to do this is to begin to host weekly or bi-weekly or even monthly family meetings and set up an emergency committee. Kids love serving on committees and feeling as though their input is valuable. Keep the topics and discussion age and maturity level appropriate. Remember not to frighten the children as the goal is to empower via education and preparation. Keep discussions to just the monthly meetings and the rest of the time just do regular, fun, family things and include prepping as a part of your family day-to-day lifestyle.
The meetings can unfold dynamically. Allow them to grow and change with your family. Assign important tasks and duties to the children and teens according to their individual ages and maturity levels. Assigning a tween or teen the task of monitoring weather is something they will likely enjoy and take on with great pride. There is a lot of information on the internet about meteorology, weather related books and even videos the family can explore to begin to understand weather and weather patterns. Invest in a weather radio (everyone should have one) and teach the kids how to use it. Let the kids help gather and pack emergency weather and power outage supplies to keep in a portable kit somewhere in the house. Kids can help with kit building, strategic planning, problem solving and all sorts of other activities.
If handled correctly, the kids will find all of the activities as empowering and comforting and possibly even fun. They will see their family as a supportive "unit" that is prepared should they need to be. If handled incorrectly, the kids will be stressing about "what ifs." What you want to accomplish is a lot of dialogue regarding the need to be prepared so that the family is empowered to handle any events more efficiently. Discuss how savings accounts are just insurance for the future in the same way that an emergency storm kit or basic survival kit is an insurance plan for "possible" life events. While you are trying to keep it real, keep it light and keep it interesting and fun.
Spend time focusing on skill-building activities with the kids and the teens from pitching tents, to eating a meal that you prepared over an outdoor cook pit. Keep on practicing and find ways to make it a fun part of your family's activities. Education and knowledge and practice empowers children to better handle stress in the event of real emergencies. All of these steps can help remove fears, increase confidence and engage learning and curiosity. Family preparedness and self-reliance should be a team mission. Continue discussing, exploring and answering questions and keep them involved.
Once your entire family is on board you can know that you are all much more likely to keep level heads under intense stress and be more equipped to survive situations that may arise. Knowledge is power so, share your knowledge with your children and empower them as well.