Are Your Children Prepared for Survival?-Survival Gear Systems

Megan Hine is a British adventurer, wilderness expedition leader and survival expert. She also acts as a consultant for private individuals and on televison shows around the world including Bear Grylls: Mission Survive and Running Wild. With a lifelong thirst for travel and adventure, Megan has amassed a huge amount of expertise in all aspects of the outdoors. By pushing her mental and physical limits in extreme environments Megan has explored remote jungles, arid deserts, and high and cold mountains; taking private clients, celebrities, and television crews to extreme and beautiful places they didn't even know existed.

Survival Gear Systems was extremely fortunate to speak with Megan about how to ensure that our children and families can learn preparedness at an early age.

The Interview

In today's society is a child ever too young to start teaching survival skills to? What skills would you start teaching at what ages?

Survival skills come in various forms, the practical; what to do in an earthquake, how to make fire, defend yourself, source water etc. And the cognitive skills which I call ‘Life skills’ or resilience. These are the skills which allow for emotional development and encourage the growth of confidence and emotional strength when life gets tough. The skill set that make up the ‘life skills’ are traits like empathy, adaptability, awareness, creativity, initiative and intuition. These are some of the traits that allow humans to overcome and bounce back from adversity.

To ensure a child grows up resilient and able to cope with the challenges life throws at them or when faced with the unexpected, life skills should be encouraged from birth. Children should be encouraged to push the boundaries of their world, to explore the environment around them, given responsibility and allowed to be creative within the safety net of their caregiver.

When I interviewed for my first survival apprenticeship, I was concerned I didn’t know much about the topics. The chief instructor told me something that has stuck with me since. ‘I can teach you the practical skills but I cannot teach you your personality’. If taught young enough, in the developmental phases, we can influence someone’s personality. We can give children a strong foundation of confidence in themselves. These can be learnt to some extent later in life, but is much harder as our minds have become less flexible to change. The physical skills however can be taught at any age. It is never too late to teach your child, or yourself, the relevant, physical survival skills for the environment you live in. If you live in an area liable to flood, quakes etc. If you live in an urban area where others maybe a risk then it is never too late or too early to instill in them survival skills for the streets.

What are some survival skills urban parents can teach their children?

Ensuring your child gets outside, joins clubs and out of school classes and socializes with other children from lots of different backgrounds will give them empathy and social skills, which allows them to read the intentions of others more proficiently, be that positive or negative. Encouraging them to play outside will help reaction times and hand eye coordination amongst other skills.

In terms of practical survival skills for ‘What if’ scenarios, basic skills like first aid, awareness of the local area, how to navigate public transport systems, how to call the emergency services, what to do in case of a natural disaster or political instability or terrorist attack, particularly those that are living in higher risk areas.

Also, why not teach your children how to make fire, how to treat water, where to find shelter.

What age would you suggest getting a child their first survival knife?

This depends on several factors, such as the ability to follow direction and the nature of the child. I am a huge advocate for experiential education, learning through mistakes and by doing. However, pushing someone early on resulting in an accident can create fear that can last a lifetime, which obviously has the opposite effect of what was intended. I have worked extensively with native peoples, and the way the children learn how to use machetes, knives and hunt and gather is by watching the adults around them. A mother will carry her baby everywhere with her in a papoose or sling. The child will grow up seeing these skills being employed and will emulate the behavior and skills of the people around them. Young children are like sponges, they will absorb any and all info both positive and negative from the environment around them and process this into their own version. Therefore, whenever handling knives, axes, machetes or firearms it is important to always use the behavior and respect you would expect them to employ.

In terms of age that I would give a knife to a child, I have taught bushcraft knife skills to five year olds. This takes patience and ground rules, such as you need to be standing or sitting still, sheath your knife before you move, where on the body to avoid cutting near. I would not usually give a knife unsupervised to five year olds, though as I do not believe they have developed the full capacity to understand the consequence of their actions. They do not have a long attention span, so I tend to keep any carving in short, fun bursts, making a peg for their tent or putting a point on a marshmallow stick and build up slowly. If your child has grown up around knives, chances are these skills will have developed faster.

In summary, my advice is to use the tools you wish your child to use in front of them, talking them through maintenance and how they work to attract their interest. Allow them to use them or buy a safety knife (without a sharp point) for them to use under your supervision when you think they are ready. You know your child best. When they have the ability to understand consequences, have developed a healthy respect for the sharp edge and are able to follow your basic knife safety rules, then maybe it is time for their own knife. I would also teach basic first aid with this and give your child a small pack with the bits and pieces to deal with cuts.

What sorts of disasters should families be prepared for? (Earthquake, Flood, Bombs, Etc)

This is so dependent on the area you live in. I know there are people who prepare for all eventualities, but this is not practical for the majority of us. If you are moving to a new area, it is worth researching whether there are any environmental, political or social threats in the area and then prepare accordingly. I do believe we should encourage people to be mentally prepared for the unexpected, whether this be terrorist attack, an earthquake, or a neighbor having a heart attack. Encouraging practical, rational, calm thinking under pressure is the best survival preparation a family can do.

Is it difficult to convey to a child not to use their self-defense training for negative purposes?

No. Many, many children across the world carry out martial arts training in various forms. Any form of self defense training, martial arts, how to dismantle a firearm are a good thing for a child. Not because it encourages a child to use these skills in anger but because it encourages completely the opposite.

They give the child confidence and an understanding of how to recognize and avoid an escalating situation. It increases their reaction time and allows them to read the body language of someone who means them harm by recognizing the movements that precede an attack. These activities also help keep your child fit and healthy. As much as the key to a survival situation is the mind set, physicality plays an important role in backing this up.

What should a family have packed in an emergency kit?

This is environment dependent, if you live in a cold environment with harsh winters then carrying a winter survival kit in the back of your vehicle is a good idea in case you should break down or experience stormy weather. If you live in a flood prone area then being prepared and with a bug out bag or boat to evacuate ready is important.

How clear should a parent be to their children as to what they are preparing for?

I believe honesty is key, if you spend a lot of time with young children, you might at times be driven mad by the ‘but why?’ questions. Children ask a lot of questions, so why lie? Before you start preparing your children, discuss with your partner or any other adults who will be involved about how you are going to bring the topic. Remember children have short attention spans. Any training as much as possible should be fun, make it into a game for example escape and evasion games – camouflage games. Ask them what these games are good for. Get them thinking about the reasons behind an activity. Try not to fear monger. Yes, the threat might be real, but you don’t want to terrify your child. Have several games or activities up your sleeve for when they get bored so you can keep their minds fresh and engaged.

Should a child carry any survival gear with them to school? If so, what?

This is a difficult question to answer and one that some readers will have very strong views on.

I travel 10 – 11 months of the year internationally. Over the past couple of years, I have felt an underlying tension and unrest across the globe. I also feel that in Western societies we have become somewhat complacent and very few of us know or understand true hardship. In an ideal world, our children could freely carry knives as tools and we can equip them with bug out bags. However, the world is not ideal and there will always be individuals who abuse their freedom. This means the system then disarms us and makes it harder to be able to protect ourselves. This is why I truly believe that the best survival kit anyone can carry on them is their mind and the ability to improvise, adapt and overcome.

I have provided survival and resilience training for children of high profile individuals such as diplomats and members of International royal families. Some do carry bug out bags, these contain equipment for the first 72 hours. Things like laminated lists of numbers, a mobile phone with important numbers pre-keyed in, a battery pack, water purification tablets, a tracker, a small cuddly toy (we all need a bit of morale from time to time).

If you do want to build a survival kit for your child for school, then please check the legalities of the school and local area first.


About Mind of a Survivor:

For too long, the sterotypical adventurer has been portrayed as bearded, ex-military, and male. Megan Hine is the woman behind some of the most macho men on TV. Are you sure you know who is best cut out to survive?

Megan Hine is no stranger to perilous conditions. Whilst leading expeditions and bushcraft survival courses and in her work on television shows such as Bear Gryll's Mission Survive, The Island, and Running Wild, she has explored the corners of the globe in pursuit of adventure.

Inspirational rather than instructional, Megan will take you along a series of adventures and show you what happens to people when they are pushed to their limits. Being chased through the jungle by armed opium farm guards, abseiling past bears and lighting fires with tampons, Megan has seen and done it all. Mind of a Survivor is packed with adventures from the frozen tundra, sweltering deserts, humid jungles, perilous mountains and fast-flowing rivers and look at the reasons why expeditions run into trouble. Bad weather, lack of food or the presence of predators obviously play a huge part, but the greatest dangers come from within. Whether it's panic, ego, the cult of the leader, an unwillingness to take instruction (especially from a woman), tensions within the group or paralyzing fear, the human brain is simultaneously the greatest asset and biggest liability we have.

Using life-and-death examples from her own career, she shows how others have developed the attitudes and attributes to thrive in the most dangerous situations, and how those same attitudes and attributes help them confront problems and obstacles at work and at home. She also shares the times when, on solo expeditions, even she wasn't sure if she had the mental toughness to make it out alive, she found the strength, and did. The principles covered are just as valid in the jungle being chased by armed men as they would be in an intense business meeting. Drawing on her vast wealth of survival experiences around the world Megan talks us through the cognitive side of survival situations and puts them into a context we can all relate to. Surviving in the wild takes a great deal of strength. You instantly think of brute muscle and fitness but what few people consider is that to truly survive you need mental agility and adaptability; you need the Mind of a Survivor.

Megan examines the human ability and instinct for survival sharing the life tools that she uses in order to survive and showing how they can easily be applied to more domestic everyday life - from careers to relationships, she shares insight and advice from her own experiences that can help people survive in any situation and cope with whatever life throws at them. Megan is a very aspirational strong female voice who will make us all sit up and think that anything is achievable if you approach it in the right way.

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