We’ve all seen them. Teenagers with a spare tire (or two), struggling to walk through the air conditioned mall. 12 year olds glued to their phones and Facebook. College students who don’t know where chicken nuggets come from. Two working parents, excessive media/electronics, unhealthy food, overly medicated; there’s plenty of blame to go around, but that’s not what I want to focus on with this post. I believe all of us have the power to change this trend. Indeed, if it’s to be changed before it’s too late, it has to be us. The gov’t can’t. Schools are, more often than not, overpriced daycares. Parents don’t seem to understand that the ‘better life’ they worked so hard to give their kids is instead making them fat and lazy. It’s time we dusted off the village model. As in, “it takes a village.”
Be a family – Do you have grand-kids or nieces/nephews that could use a fishing trip out past the reach of a wifi signal? Make time to make it happen, don’t wait for them to ask you for it. Do your younger relatives have hunter ed courses done? If their parents are too busy, why not make the arrangements and offer to help the youngster get that step done? And don’t think the girls won’t be interested. With my brother deployed in the middle east, I’m the only hunter under the age of 50 in my family.
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Be a neighbor – Back to the village concept, it seems so many of us live too far away from relatives to take active roles in their lives. It’s a good bet that the youngsters that live next door to you have the same problem in reverse, with their elders living too far away. It can be hard to cross that line between family and old-guy-next-door, but I think with patience and the correct approach you could really make a difference. If you can start out with things you can do at home, be it gardening or cleaning a gun or fixing a gutter, I think you can build up trust so their parents will be more comfortable letting you take their youngsters out to wilder locales. Local youth events, be it a fishing derby at the pond in town or youth hunt at a local farm would also seem to be nice stepping points.
Be a mentor – My county Pheasants Forever chapter has started a mentor program to do outreach to youth in the community. These kinds of local mentor programs can be great for matching up outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen with youth who are in need of some quality time with nature. They can help you get past the overprotective parents, with forms and permission slips and a “mentor selection process” that eases their worries of con-men or child snatchers. The program in my county works with local high schools to target the invites to those youth that counselors feel could get the most good out of a mentor. So you won’t end up with a farmer’s kid who’s at home in the brush, you’ll end up with a mentee who might not own proper foot wear or protective gear. This should be seen as an opportunity and not a drawback.
Be a prepared parent – If you are lucky enough to still be parenting some youth, lead by example. Make time for outdoor pursuits and DIY projects. Involve your kids in them. Invite over co-worker’s kids, or the neighbor kids, or some kids from school. Not so many that it’s a zoo, but enough to get a reputation as someone willing to work with youth. Other parents will notice. Youth will notice. Your own kids will soak it up even if they outwardly say eww, gross or uncool.
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Preparedness means more than just guns – Canning, preserving, first aid, community organizing, conservation, home economics, quilting… the list is long if you can’t/don’t hunt. So much of this just isn’t taught in school anymore. So much of it isn’t in practice with the generation that’s raising youth right now. It certainly isn’t on Facebook. If we don’t reach out to these youth they’ll never be exposed to it. It takes a village, are you doing your part?
– Calamity Jane