What to Do When Your Adult Children Refuse to Prep

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It’s the same old conversation again. You know the one I’m talking about. That one you have with your adult kids (often in their 20s and 30s) about how they need to start prepping. How they really should have a little extra food in the pantry, a little water set aside, and for heaven’s sake, if they can afford it, that emergency fund would be a lifesaver.

And yet, the conversation ends how it always ends. An eye roll, a flippant comment about how the world isn’t ending and everything is fine and that you’re being “crazy” or “overdramatic.”

Sound familiar? If you have adult kids or even anyone in your life who takes a similar stance, you know how insanely frustrating these conversations can be. To you, it’s common sense. Why wouldn’t you prep, because, after all, you never know what will happen?

Sometimes it’s all about the stigma

I’ll be honest, I’ve been on the eye-rolling side of this conversation many time. Just ask my mom, Daisy. I think a large part of it has to do with the stigma. When the general public hears words like “prepping” or “preppers” or “preparedness,” they’re not picturing what the everyday modern version is. They’re picturing gas-mask-wearing bunker-dwelling survivalists, they imagine scenarios like the 90’s movie Blast from the Past or that TV show Doomsday Preppers.

Pop culture and media like to show the more extreme side of prepping because it’s interesting, it’s different, they can glamorize it, and it gets and keeps people talking. Just not in a good way.

It’s the stigmatization like this that keeps people from even considering prepping, let alone actually doing it.

I don’t see what I do as prepping

I’ll be honest, when I think of my day-to-day living, I don’t use the word prepping. I don’t see myself as a prepper. That is the God’s honest truth. At the same time, I do know that if something were to happen, I would be okay. Just because I don’t call myself a prepper doesn’t mean I’m not prepared.

Here are the preps I pretty much always have:

  • I have a supply of water in jugs, enough to get my household through a lengthy storm because, living on well water, if the power goes out, which happens at least every month or two, I have no running water.
  • My pantry is stocked with enough shelf-stable food to get me through a reasonable period of time. I live in a cold, snowy climate so I have to be ready to be snowed in.
  • I have a pretty decent first aid kit that covers all the basics, and I also have a first aid and CPR handbook sitting on my shelf (from the last time I was first aid certified).
  • I always have an extra pair of runners, clothes, a blanket, snacks, water, and an extra dog leash in my car in case of an emergency on the road.
  • In the winter, I also keep kitty litter in my car in case I get stuck in the snow or ice.
  • I have so many candles that if the power went out, I’d be able to light my place up at night, probably for a month straight.

There are other things, but those are my highlights. To the preparedness world, it’s seen as prepping. In my eyes, I see it as common sense. Both are right. It’s just a matter of the label I put on it.

Try changing up your approach

When trying to get the younger adults in your life to start prepping, introduce them slowly, and try changing up your words. If having the exact same conversation over and over again hasn’t changed their mind thus far, it probably never will, so you need to change your approach. To them, they see nothing wrong with their way of living, and things, like scare tactics or arguments, won’t change that.

I recommend starting small. People aren’t going to change their way of being overnight, and most can’t afford to do it quickly. Take inspiration happening from the world around us, both nationwide and in your (or their) town. Here are some things you can try:

  1. Work on building up their pantry a little at a time, but with things they’ll actually eat. In the early stages, I wouldn’t go in for food buckets. While they can be useful, they can sometimes be unappealing and costly when buying in volume. Instead, start with maybe getting just 5-10 extra canned or dried goods every time you hit the store. Say, “I know you love ___. I saw it’s on sale at the grocery store this week. Why don’t you pick up a few extra while it’s cheap so you have a little set aside?”
  2. If they don’t have any first aid supplies, try getting them a small first aid kit as a gift. After all, one can never have too many bandaids, and whether its a sprained ankle, a slice on the finger while chopping veggies for dinner, or just a need to sanitize a little scrape, it’s good to have the basics, and it’s something that can realistically be needed and used at any time.
  3. Live close to all those wildfires going on right now or somewhere that gets cold and snowy in the winter? You never know when you can get stuck in your car, so it’s good to have a few things in the trunk, like a sleeping bag or blanket, a few granola bars, and some water. Nothing crazy, but when the weather is bad, you never know when you could slide into a ditch or get stuck on a highway for hours on end. (It actually happened to my younger sister.)
  4. Talk about realistic things, like the number of people losing jobs or being unable to find work right now. It’s things like this that make you really need an emergency fund, or, as my grandparents called it growing up, a rainy day fund, as you never know when you could have an unexpected expense like changing your brakes or replacing your refrigerator pop up.

At the end of the day, they are adults and have to make their own choices

It can be so hard, nearly impossible, when something makes so much sense to you, to drop the topic. It’s like your loved one is wearing blinders to the possibilities. I get it; truly, I do. But, at the end of the day, your adult children are just that. Adults. They have to make their choices for themselves, and if they chose not to prep, you can’t force them. Trying will only drive a wedge between you, make them less likely to listen, and make it harder for them to come to you for advice and support when they actually need it. (Remember, no one likes being told, “I told you so!”)

What you can do, is gently encourage, change your wording so you’re not using those heavily stigmatized words, and show the realistic, day-to-day sides and reasons for prepping, avoid the extreme stuff for now.

Have you had this experience, either as an adult child or as the parent of an adult child? Do you have any advice for the parents out there who want to see to it that their offspring are prepared? What are your ideas? What roadblocks have you run into?

Let’s talk about it in the comments section.

About Chloe Morgan

Chloe Morgan grew up living with a tight budget. In her late teens and early 20’s all the lessons she’d learned started to slip, like it does for many college age students on their own for the first time, and with their first credit card. As she’s gotten older, she’s started to deal with the repercussions and has taken on a frugal way of living, keeping her costs low, as she pays off debt and saves for her future. Chloe lives in Northern Ontario, Canada, with her cute dog, Rhea.

Chloe Morgan

Chloe Morgan

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  • This is great advice from Chloe but in case of an entire system breakdown you have to be prepared as parents to feed, house and protect the whole family. You had also better have a community that will do the same. I would never have paid much attention to preparedness in my 20s, 30s or even 40s and beyond. It was the last 3 years that woke most people up.

  • Great advice. I had the same issue with my middle child. Never had enough time to purchase things on sale (go through flyers), or the room to store some extras. He lives on a boat so I get that part of it. For 2 years he lived in the boonies where it was stock up a bit at the grocery store over an hour and a ferry ride away, or pay local corner store prices. Happy to say that he now has a bit put by and he comes an raids my pantry for home canned food at least once a month. Every step forward.

  • It’s extra frustrating, because you know that if poop really goes down… The same people who are dismissing you and rolling their eyes at you are going to land on your doorstep with the expectation that you will now look after and protect them, potentially their spouses and kids and possibly a friend or two as well.

    I think it comes down to instilling a sense of responsibility in people… Something that is sorely lacking in today’s society. And I do believe that this is by design.

  • We have a tote that we purchased from Home Depot. It is sturdy enough that we put shelf stable items in it and it can easily be packed in case of emergency. We also have a travel trailer. Granted if the SHTF really bad, we would need to get gasoline, in the meantime we could get to a campsite on a tank of gas and live there or at least get somewhere that is easily defensible and live in the trailer for a bit.

    I don’t think of us as preppers. As was stated in the article, we are just prepared for a disruption or a period of civil unrest.

  • Common Sense
    Occam’s Razor
    The Truth
    The Order above taught to children and Adults
    And any one who is Prepared to LIVE a Happy Life
    In any Event

  • As a single mother, when I was raising my daughter, I always had extra provisions and supplies. When we lived in California, I had earthquake kits in the house in my car. Our extra supplies tide us over when I was laid off during the 2008 downsizing of our company. But my daughter always just rolled her eyes. Fast forward several years… Now married, and a mother, herself, she and her military husband lived with my new granddaughter in the Norfolk area. I was out visiting when a hurricane struck the area, resulting in a power outage. My daughter went to the hall closet and pulled out a tote, pulling out a single burner, sterno stove, freeze dried food, bottled water, flashlights… Then she looked at me, and just laughed “Don’t say it Mom!” Even with all those eye rolls, she had been listening all those years.

    • With all due respect, I totally disagree with that. Sure if they take advantage you need to change the way you do things. However nobody is exempt from an occasional crisis.

      As long as I have breath in my body and the ability to help, I will always always give them a hand up. My life would be so different if I’d had unconditional support and I’ll always provide assistance when I can. I’d never want them to stay in a bad situation because I thought I should teach them a lesson.

      And for what it’s worth they both know this and treasure it and never take advantage. Life is hard. What kind of parent would I be if I made it harder?

      • No kidding and after the not-all-women-love-being-pregnant and18 years to get them through K-12/become a productive member of society, what parent worth his/her salt would not help his/her child(ren)? Big difference between help and enabling.

      • Agreed. I wouldn’t want my son to be in some of the situations I was in, driving a dangerous car, no money to buy food etc. While I want him to be independent and plan for emergencies, and he’s finally gotten into saving and having an emergency fund, if he were in significant need, as long as I still breathe, as his mother I would try to do what I could. And when he hopefully has children, the same will apply to them.

  • Thank you for this article, I have 5 adult men, all are
    married but the youngest. AndI have one that is not a ” prepper” . I have tried to get his wife to buy extra to have on hand. Then she says I have so much food. Not even enough for two weeks. Then the oldest lives in a small town in Virginia they do havea Walmart and Food lion in the next town and it is an hour to Richmond. So he always has a car emergency kit. With 3 kids of his own. And they have at leadt 3 month of supplies. So I have both in my family.

  • I’ve found that it takes “current events “ to happen and then my son becomes a little more receptive. So when the grocery stores were cleaned out during the Covid panic, he finally got interested in having a veggie garden. When he lost power(which his heat requires) and it was dropping to the single digits that night he was receptive when I sent him links to safe mini propane heaters (he bought one). When he had no way to charge his phone I sent him a link to a portable battery charger (he bought one). And so on. So when something happens that catches his attention I try to turn it into a teachable moment. And of course I buy him some stuff as presents; flashlights, etc.

    • The 2021 Texas blizzard should have been enough to convince anyone to prepare. An unexpected place simultaneously had abnormally cold temperatures, no power, no water, and no ability to leave home. It only lasted a week or so, but those with no stored water would be in a bad way.

      I heard many people resorted to melting snow for water. Sure, that’s something. But they had to venture outside in the cold, collect snow, then use whatever energy they had at their disposal to melt it. Or, you could just already have a few gallons per person, stay inside bundled up, using any energy you have to stay warm.

      But that was back in the stone age of two years ago.

  • Chloe,
    First, good article. I like your perspective.
    Second, this really rang true to me, “I don’t see what I do as prepping.”
    I call it common sense. Or, back in the day, that is how they (our parents or grand parents) did it. It was just common sense to have a garden. To can. To have a well stocked pantry.
    As a society at large, we take it for granted that there will always be food on the shelves at the grocery store (well, COVID was a surprise to many). The Quik-E-Mart will always be open for gas a twelve pack and some smokes. If you cannot log into your Fakebook page, you can always call 911.
    As a society at large, we are soft and squishy (again, as a society at LARGE! Not talking about most preppers). We lack true self-resilience. True grit. True backbone. True thick skin. Heck, we have a generation that truly thinks using the wrong(??) pronoun is actual true violence. What the heck is that all about?

    • So there is some overlap between “the way they did it back in the day” and prepping now. I think the difference is in the immediacy. None of us have to prep. We are looking forward. And not just storing up nuts for winter; we’re storing up for years, possibly a decade in advance. Not necessarily from the time of this writing, as things may get bad very soon, but TOP is not a new website.

      Skills can take years to develop, and most of us have built our food preps over time. Certainly, I have a good stash now, but it was initially built over about 18 months; now, I rotate out the older items while purchasing replacements.

      Thinking over a year ahead about problems that may occur and preparing accordingly…that is smart, may I dare say wise, but it is not common sense. Balancing hypotheticals with practical solutions and contingencies is uncommon sense!

    • I still remember what my rural grandparents did during the Depression to survive and I am trying to emulate what they did. After reading this article, I thought that it might be good to give my children and their families a “get to Mom’s house” bag that they can use. We could all work together to help our offspring survive.

  • Our house is our family’s “apocalypse” house – all the adult kids know to come here and what their roles will be when they’re here. They have all prepped some when they’ve been able but life (2 young kids in a house one thought they’d move out of but couldn’t due to high housing costs and interest rates; first and tiny apartment because rents are so high; escaped from Oregon to SC finally, but having to rebuild stock they got rid of to move) happened. But I’ve got a former Eagle Scout with all kinds of outdoor experience, a former military/cop now firearms instructor, and one who went to survival school, taught boating skills, and hunts on the guy side (and they all, plus my husband, fish), and an organizer extraordinaire plus loves gardening and a 20 year vet tech with EMT training who also loves to fish on the girl side, so I’m good with being the one to stock up!

  • Well, as a 53-year-old adult whose mother still tries to give advice, I say let them be adults and make their own decisions. Tell them your perspective once and then leave them alone. If you raised them to be independent thinkers, let them think. Now I’m much more prepared than my mom, so no issue there; but she has lots of opinions. Just stop!

    • Reminds me of the old Anacin ad:
      Mother – “I think it needs a little salt.”
      Daughter – “Mother, please, I’d rather do it myself!”

  • never liked the Doomsday Prepper show. They really made the preppers look bad. And at the end of the show they down graded the reason they were prepping to begin with. Ex. Asteroid hitting earth, or CME. “the odds of that happening are”. You get the idea. Anyways, I like being out of debt, paid the kids college tuition, have a cash reserve, and food to last us about 3 month’s.

    What I need to do is increase my garden space and learn how to can and increase my food reserves. Practice drills during the weekend and see how wife and I handle going without electric and running water. No bug out retreat to go to here. Kids will be coming here if stuffHTF.
    Keep at it, stay safe.

  • Growing up in California, earthquakes were part of the experience. I have lived through many and thank God my mother ALWAYS had “survival” food on hand. I don’t mean freezedried, although that would have been nice. Soups-both canned and dried, canned chili and tamales, oatmeal, cold cereal, dried milk that could be mixed up, pasta, spaghetti sauce: you get the picture. She also had plenty of cast iron cookware and we never lived in a house without a fireplace. I can still picture her, with the shaking and rumbling going on, lighting a fire and cooking up something spectacular. It never occured to me that it was weird or abnormal or “prepping”. Most of the time, she fed neighbors and family and various pets. She just said that we needed to be ready. We always had extra dog kibble bags, water (Southern Cali-enough said), candles, etc. She knew we would always have another quake and the stores and streets would be closed or unuseable. I grew up understanding what foods get used in what order and DO NOT open the fridge/freezer until necessary. I think if folks raised their kids this way, then being prepared would be normal.

  • We simply asked our son to be on the lookout for various items useful for prepping, and explained why. He enjoyed the hunt and brought home many other useful items, getting into the spirit himself.

  • Since Covid and the supply chain issues, I’m having less trouble convincing people to have a “spare” of something. Will let them know if a see a great deal somewhere. I give prepper gifts without calling them that. Lightweight multifunction power banks, pocket multi tools, and rechargeable lanterns have all been my go to gifts. I usually give a first aid kit or a small tool kit as an housewarming gift.

  • Both my oldest and my youngest are both in with both feet. The Youngest, our daughter, not quite so much as our son. She’s not stockpiling weapons and ammo yet…though she’s slowly coming round.
    Both recognize that I’m not going to be here much longer, and have accepted that, and are picking my brain like crazy.

  • Hi Chloe,

    I always give an example relevant to their situations to make them think by themselves. As I explained to a young running man, addicted to his Cliff Chocolate Bar 20g Protein: Where would you get them if there is a general strike among delivery workers and you cannot receive your package? If most stores are out of stock, are you willing to stand in line to have access to your precious product? I know he hates losing time waiting in line to buy stuff…

    P.S. I recommend to buy 2 or 3 sturdy can openers, you cannot have to much, if one breaks, you got at least a spare one.

  • The “great tragedy” would be to allow this farce of a civilized society to continue to devour intelligent, compassionate and decent people and replace them with nothing but affirmative action idiots and various other miscreants. Once you’ve tried to use civility, facts and reason to debate these anti-White knuckle-draggers face-to-face, you will then fully understand how nothing short of brute force combined with unwavering resolve is the only thing that will keep them from destroying you and your family.

    You can’t reason with unreasonable people. You can’t expect selfless compassion and sensible behaviors from people who have never shown themselves to have any kind of moral compass that wasn’t tied to their own self-serving interests. They will gladly kill you and not feel one ounce of regret or remorse. In fact, they’ll probably brag about it.

    Sympathy and compassion are wasted emotions and character traits if not given proper context. Civility is a useless and counterproductive principle if it is methodically used to keep you passive and docile while the hordes slowly take you down, piece by piece. One day we are all going to have to play our little part and be that animal or savage that we thought we would never have to be. If you can’t be that animal, then you better be willing to throw your unconditional support behind those that can.

    When the Time is right, it will all make sense and come together rather quickly.
    Mark 3 22

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