Survival Lessons Equal Life Lessons

Hector Santana
5 min readMay 26, 2024


Teach your Children to Thrive

There are life lessons to be learned in camping, hiking. and climbing.

Survival at its root is understanding what your limits are and how you can enhance those limits in your favor. It is about preparedness and living in the now, in the realty that anything can happen at any time.

How do we teach that to our children? How do we make them understand that being prepared is a way of life? Being prepared does not mean being anxious or scared all the time. It means arming yourself with the skills and tools to overcome the things that can come your way living in a complex world. Teaching our children to be prepared begins with simple skills meant to teach them discipline and self-reliance.

Teaching your children to work for things is a critical lesson. Do not simply teach your children that you will always hand them everything. Instead teach them to fetch things for themselves, when they lose something enlist them in the effort to track it down. Show them where and how to look for things they often misplace. Let them watch you prepare food or complete chores, show them the value of doing things yourself and of hard work. Instill in them the virtues of commitment and self-sufficiency.

Of course, parenting skills are not automatic, many new parents struggle to do the right thing. There is no one size fits all approach, however there are simple things you can do that teach your children powerful lessons. First, do not teach your children to be fearful. Telling them the boogie monster will come if they do not eat their food, is a terrible lesson. Building them up and making them fearless is the right way to go. Making them understand that life is valuable and worth the effort of preserving it is a great approach. Teach your children to respect others, their property and themselves and they will flourish into responsible community-oriented adults.

Do not teach your children to fear monsters, it only encourages negative thinking.

Give them chores even when they are small. Simple things like “help your dad with the food” or “set up the tent with me” will suffice. It will teach your children that they are part of a family unit or team and that they will often have to pitch in to help. Have a time for things to get done and stick to that schedule. Making your children understand that there is time and place for everything is very important. Looking at your watch before doing certain things will enshrine in your children the importance of time and schedules. Lunch at twelve, a walk at three, and dinner at six are all part of a tempo that you want to set in your children’s lives. These lessons will pay off in the long run, but only if you understand that you will have to reinforce these lessons over time as your children grow.

Speaking of growing, your children will need constant guidance as they mature. At eight years old I began to teach my son, now 15 how to survive in the mountain environment. Of course, small children's bodies do not generate heat the way an adult does so do not start cold weather activities too early. With us it began with camping then fire starting, water sourcing, and shelter building. It was fun and a great way to bond. Learning about equipment and how to use it was another fundamental lesson in understanding the science that goes into developing equipment. Why is that important? Because it informs you on the mechanics of building your own shelter, knife or water filter. How many children know that charcoal is the active ingredient in a water filter? Not many. What you do and how you lead by example will instill in your children a sense of duty not only to themselves but also to whatever they pursue in their later years.

My son and I have been on many camping excursions. He has learned to embrace the sound of rain in a camp environment and to appreciate the hard work of being prepared during cold weather camping. There are important lessons to be learned there, like learning how to thrive in uncomfortable conditions. How to operate outside of your comfort zone. These are not just survival lessons; they are life lessons. Surviving in adverse outdoor conditions is tough, because you are at the mercy of mother nature and the conditions under which you find yourself. Life is very much like that, every day you are presented with new challenges.

Operating in these conditions is something learned through experience. Teach them and they will thrive.

Why is any of this important? Because you owe to your family to prepare them for whatever may come. But start slow and develop your children’s skills over time. Work backwards, instead of camping take them kayaking. Then try rappelling. Let them develop an appreciation for being outdoors. Show them the value of good equipment. Enjoy those great vistas with your kids but teach them about the pros and cons of the wilderness. Pitch a quality tent with good hydrostatic head ratings, explain why that is important. Give them water resistant matches and let them learn about why they still ignite even when wet. These are very important lessons that will form the basis of their knowledge and let's not forget, can also save lives.

Why do ropes have a breaking strength, why is the kernmantle important, and what is a prusik knot. Teach them the principles of gravity and why knowing how to go up a rope is as important as going down. You may see this as a rudimentary exercise but to your children, it is essential survival information. Do not take these lessons for granted. Simple things like hiking and trekking provide opportunities to learn for you and your child.

Teach your children about the equipment you use during excursions.

I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but I do want to emphasize that there is no point in knowing so much if you are not going to teach your children what you know. Survival is an art, and you must pass it on to them. If they are not into it, do it surreptitiously. Go into the outdoors but do not emphasize or make them feel like they are in training. If they are not interested, at least you tried. Eventually they will come around. Safe trails out there…



Hector Santana

*Top Writer-Camping and Survival. I love to write about the great outdoors, survival and foreign policy. An avid outdoorsman and survival instructor.