Children and the Apocalypse: What Kind of Childhood Can They Have?

Since I’ve become a mother, I’ve noticed how much more I consider the position of children in a world gone mad. Today, our children are allowed perhaps a longer childhood than ever before (on the extreme end, well into their mid-twenties and even thirties for some). But if the apocalypse comes about, what kind of childhood can they have? How can you have fun and be a child if you’re worried about mere survival?

I started thinking about this more after seeing a show yesterday where one family was preparing their children and themselves for an expected apocalypse in 2012. The children were young, neither over ten, and the parents conceded they didn’t think the children understood fully what the parents were preparing for, and for the most part the emphasis was on creating complete self-sufficiency and learning to live off the grid.

School Children from Bigi Poika, source:

What I wondered was: how much do you explain to the kids? How much are you preparing them, and how much are you just frightening them?

Let’s face it. None of us know when, if, how the apocalypse could occur, nor the repercussions. So on what authority can we frighten our children? Maybe it won’t even occur in our lifetime or theirs.

On the other hand, say the apocalypse happens, like, tomorrow. Whatever form it takes, it’s a fair surety that our children won’t have the same luxury to play all day or enjoy leisure while the rest of the family are exhausting themselves trying to provide food, shelter, and security. And yet on the otherhand, more and more studies are looking at the value of play and its significance – and not only just for kids, but for adults, too. So children can’t be expected, I don’t think, to work constantly for the family and be miniature adults. There has to be some balance.

I think about the position and treatment of children in historical times, from yes, essentially miniature children, to the nineteenth century and especially the Victorians who started to place a greater emphasis on childhood. It especially depended, of course, on the social status and wealth of a family to determine how leisurely both children and adults alike could be. But for the less wealthy, children had to play a part in the household economy.

I guess my vision of the apocalypse brings us closer to pioneer roots. Indeed, children needed to participate in the household chores because there were so many of them, they’d never get done and the family could starve if everyone didn’t pitch in. Yes, they did do things that were more appropriate to their ages and abilities, like gathering eggs, tending animals, various things still as dependent on the parents choice as it is today. But, for the most part, they also still had toys and time to play. Not all day, not all the time, no, and their childhood was expected to end and responsibility start earlier than it does today, but they were allowed to be children.

I guess, if the worst happens, I want to make sure my children are still allowed some opportunity to be children. Will they be helping around the house? You bet – just as they will without an apocalypse to intervene. But they will also still get time to explore and learn through play about the world we live in, whatever that can or will mean.

What about you? What do you think the role of children will or should be during the apocalypse? Thanks for reading, and have a great week.


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