Editors Note: A contribution from valknut79, an important topic that can come to roost on any of our doorsteps at a moments notice, timely advice.
For quite a long time, I was a solo prepper. My wife knew about my strange little hobby, but didn’t support or discourage it, and I was left to use my office as my primary prepping space for quite some time. I managed well, and didn’t think much of it until disaster struck. My wife lost her job, and it was now up to me to provide entirely for the family. At the time, she made quite a bit more than I did, and we were in jeopardy of losing our home.
Preparedness suddenly went from being a strange hobby to being an intelligent way of life. There was an indeterminate amount of time in our lives where we would be living on only 40-60% of what it would take to pay our bills and maintain our lifestyle. We made some simple changes – our daughter was unrolled from day care since my wife would now be home to care for her. We briefly considered selling our second car. We backed down to minimum payments on the credit cards and mortgage payments. We made an effort to save electricity and turn off all the lights every time we left the room.
The biggest life change we made though? We went grocery shopping once every other week instead of once every four days. We dipped into the food storage that I had kept in my prepping supply upstairs instead, and used our gardening plot as a means of true financial survival, turning our $2 packet of seeds into three weeks worth of lettuce or beets.
The branches that fell from the trees in back went from being a nuisance to being a fuel source for our fire pit, which we used as a grill instead of using the more expensive charcoal.
When she found a job again a few months later, and things went back to normal, my wife was surprised at how little losing her large paycheck made it for our family. Preparedness was no longer strange, it was practical. Now, my wife is somewhat a prepper with me. She’s not into the whole SHTF or TEOTWAWKI situations, but she does now see the value of storing food (not water), making energy-saving changes to the home, and building up on skills needed for camping, gardening, and so forth. Losing a job is not a great way to get into the realm of preparedness but it brought the point home for us.
As such I would like to offer some great ways that might work to turn your family from quiet non-supporters into full fledged participants in your family preparedness.
1. Talk About Current Events
It’s hard to talk about current events these days without sensing the inevitability of a real war perhaps with North Korea, Russia or the Middle East. It’s hard to ignore the political turmoil and false democracy going on in Venezuela or Turkey and not envision some sort of collapse there. It’s difficult to hear about and not react to stories about towns without water, such as have been populating the news in California, Minnesota and Michigan recently. In all of these situations, the crisis can be minimized, and the fear can be subdued, with the power of preparedness.
Make current events a part of your family’s zeitgeist by talking about them at family meal times, and by introducing a short news program such as NPR’s Up First podcast to morning car rides. As concerns, anxieties, and worries are brought up, you have an opportunity to discuss food rationing, wartime economy, nightmare weapon scares, EMPs, and more.
Our current events reviews eventually grew to the point where I decided to take some of our discussions and put them together in a binder to form the family safety and evacuation plan. It sits in the basement near our camping supply, and in case of emergency, the whole family can reference the guide to figure out what our plans should be.
2. Find a Good Book to Recommend
Our house is full of books. I think that they’re food for the mind, and a valuable source of information and wisdom in addition to entertainment. In the realm of preparedness, there are thousands of books that you could choose to start your family on a journey.
I think it’s best to start with a story rather than a non-fiction book about homesteading, and I would target the younger members of your family. If you can get them reading, your significant other is bound to get excited, and will likely join in so as to be part of the adventure. My favorite choice for young people is the “Life As We Knew It” series by Susan Pfeffer.
For adults, there’s quite a bit of variety. Pick up a few different novels and see what strikes you. If you’re into prepping for a pandemic event, then you might want to choose a different book than someone looking to prepare for wildfires or EMPs. Franklin Horton, William Fortschen, and Steven Konkoloy are some authors with multiple styles of disaster and TEOTWAWKI novels.
3. Play a Game – Games are a great way to get people talking.
For board games, I’d recommend playing Pandemic. This is a two to four player adventure game that involves players working cooperatively to cure different diseases as they pop up around the world. This is a fun way to spend an hour with your family after dinner, and introduces the idea of potential End of the World situations, giving you some talking points to introduce the idea of future change and planning for inevitable disaster. There are other “Would you rather?” style Q&A games that are made for Preppers, and even a choose your own adventure book like “Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse?” that are ideal for read-aloud adventures with your family.
Even video games shouldn’t be ignored. Younger family members may not be able to be torn away from their screens, so use that to your advantage. If your son or daughter has a modern video game console, chances are that they own a game from the Fallout series, which are post-apocalyptic shooting games with some survival elements. If they have a phone, there are thousands of survivalist apps that provide “what if” situations that you can work your way out of. Express an interest, and get involved with them in playing, and it will help give you another way to connect with them over the ideas of surviving in the wilderness, and what would happen if the world were to suddenly end.
4. Start a New Hobby
Preparedness is not all about disaster prep and storage. That has always been my personal focus, but there is so much more that could be done. Sometimes, it’s those other activities that can provide a launchpad into the world of preparedness.
As I mentioned above, we have a garden. Gardening for me is OK, but it’s something that I started largely because I felt like as a prepper, it was something that I had to do. I love the benefits of fresh, basically free produce, but I really loathe doing a lot of the work and maintenance that it takes to make it all come together. My wife? She absolutely loves that garden. She’d work there as her full-time job. She does flowers in addition to veggies, and while not terribly practical, it gets her out in the garden and working. If disaster strikes, she’ll be able to contribute to our food storage by growing things, that’s for certain.
My daughter is like me – we just don’t love planting. We do love paintball. If ever there was a sport or game that was perfect for teaching strategy, tactics, and at least a little bit about guns, then paintball is the way to go. I’ve been able to take her out into the woods and teach her the little I know about stealth and tracking, and I’ve been able to do it while simultaenously giving her a gun and teaching her how to aim, use cover, and giving her an opportunity to do something she’s always wanted to do – shoot at her mother. This is a very fun time for the two of us (my wife hates it), and there are definitely some survivalist teachings that are occurring in the moment.
Camping is another great hobby or activity that allows you to teach skills, and it can also foster a love of the outdoors and perhaps offer an opportunity to buy some of those cool camping supplies that might double as practical preparedness items. If none of this sounds appealing, consider the idea of taking the family to a shooting range, bringing home an archery kit for the backyard, having your son or daughter help you build them a lean-to shelter or tree house in the backyard, or doing a home improvement project together with your significant other to teach them how to use tools and do basic woodworking.
One of the most important steps in preparing your family for a disaster or SHTF scenario is actually getting them to talk about preparing for a disaster or SHTF scenario. If it’s not in their mindset, then what you teach won’t stick, and what you prepare yourself will not be as effective, especially without their support.
The four ideas mentioned above are not going to instantly change their minds. You’re not going to hand your wife a book, tell her to read it, and then have her instantly start raising chickens in your backyard. What these ideas will do is plant the seeds of why it’s important to do some of the various “prepper things” without having to talk about how the world is going to end tomorrow. It’s a chance to offer “what would you do?” questions to get their minds turning, allowing them to see the ideas of preparedness as an important part of how they should live instead of as a fantasy realm of guns and hoarding.
As a lonely prepper, you’re limited to strictly what you can do, and if you’re at work and unable to make it home during a disaster, your family might not make it despite all of the help that you put in place at and around your home. If you can involve them in the process, you can get more done, and have more fun doing it with the support of your loved ones.