Are there parenting tips that teach children how to survive in the woods? Is it possible to practice some wilderness survival tips, just in case junior gets lost at the campground? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’ – if you know a few basic lessons and tricks. Granted, nobody wants to imagine a child being lost and alone in a dark forest overnight, but if you take your kids to the annual family camping trip, it may be a very real danger he faces. Do not be too quick to turn away from lessons on survival training for kids; the parenting tips you follow today may save the child’s life next summer!
• Rethink your stranger danger teaching. Yes, strangers do abduct and hurt children. Junior should not talk to a stranger or take candy from him (or help him find his lost puppy). Even so, don’t forget that there are also nice strangers, such as the police officer, fire fighter or doctor at the hospital! Teach the child that a stranger (or group of strangers) who calls out his name when he is alone in the woods most likely wants to take him home to mom and dad.
• Promise a ‘no punishment’ rule. The United States Search and Rescue Taskforce points out that children are afraid of punishment and might actually hide from would-be rescuers. It is imperative for your child to understand that getting lost is an accident, which can happen to anyone. He must know – and believe you – that there will be no spanking, time out, loss of privileges or any other form of punishment if he gets lost and nice strangers have to go out looking for him.
• Am I lost? Survival training for kids will have little impact on the child if he does not know when all the wilderness rules go into effect. It might break your heart, but you owe it to your child to teach him what being lost actually means. Cody Lundin, who heads up Arizona’s Aboriginal Living Skills School, urges parents to teach their children that being lost means wanting to get back to mom and dad but not knowing how to get there.
• Stay! Remember teaching Rover to stay put while you went out to get the mail? Practice the same command with your child. His wilderness survival might depend on not moving around and perhaps crossing searchers’ paths into territory they already combed through. Instead, the Hug-a-Tree program strongly cautions parents to train their kids to pick a tree and hug it, stay near it and don’t leave it.
• Practice is worth a thousand words. Hands-on parenting always trumps dry theory. Although it may be simpler to just set down the ground rules and then run through them a couple of times in the car, children – and young kids, in particular – need modeling and play-acting to really ‘get’ it. Go outside into the backyard or park and practice getting lost, recognizing what lost feels like, finding a tree and staying put. Do refresher runs whenever you get ready to send junior off to camp or it is time for the next family camping trip.
• Address ‘what if’ scenarios. Preschoolers in particular have a very lively imagination. Address their fears of what happens if they see a bear, a smelly skunk, a hippopotamus (unlikely) or a monster. At the root of the last question is of course the infamous fear of the unknown. Openly address all of these scenarios. With respect to real animals, it is enough to point out that they are much more afraid of humans than it is the other way around. Teach the child to answer any noises with an even louder noise. For the imaginary noises – as odd as it sounds – teach the child to make up a little chant that he can say or sing if he gets afraid.
Now that you know how to ready your child for the next camping trip, do you feel confident that you, as a parent, know what to do? Remember: survival training for kids is a good first step, but if mom and dad do not know what to do on the back-end of a rescue, they may waste precious time and daylight.
United States Search and Rescue Taskforce: “Child Survival – Lost in the Woods”
ABC News: “Prepare Kids for the Possibility of Being Lost in the Woods”
National Association for Search and Rescue: “Hug a Tree”
More by Sylvia Cochran:
Baby Tips for Parents of an Unenthusiastic Future Sibling
5 Car Seat Safety Tips for a Cross Country Trip
Travel Safety Tips for Unaccompanied Minors