INTRODUCING SITUATIONAL AWARENESS TO CHILDREN
At the risk of under-addressing the topic, the purpose of this article is to introduce an important safety aspect to your children that they may practice with and without your presence as well as with your care givers including a baby sitter, nanny or Au-pair. It is an attribute and necessity at the basic level of emergency preparedness and it’s called Situational Awareness (“SA”).
“SA” may be practiced in varying stages of your life’s chapters. Its focus and terminology has been brought to the forefront through military usage but practiced domestically through the law enforcement, safety and security professions for decades. Plainly and as basically a definition; it’s the ability to perceive and analyze your surroundings based on your knowledge and experience and to make a decision or judgement of those elements and the projection of their future progression. “SA” is not just street smarts and not just for the streets. It can and is used in almost every facet of life and a critical attribute often overlooked and taken for granted. It is certainly not practiced or trained enough.
“SA” training for children is often begun without the concept’s formal title or in fact, its realization ever beginning. However, today’s current socio and economic climate almost mandate and warrant parents be more cognizant of the pitfalls of past parenting errors and make every effort in embracing positive parenting by taking a more deliberate role in teaching “SA”.
The main purpose for providing your child “SA” is protection. That protection of course begins at home with you. Your positive behavior is ALWAYS the baseline. When your child is not with you, they use that baseline as a guide. What I mean by that is the baseline is your child’s reference point. The baseline is what is normal (because you have told them WHAT IS NOT NORMAL). They can compare other behavior to the baseline and what normal should be. That way when they are with a caregiver or someone else, they know what “should” happen and what is acceptable. Abnormalities of behavior must be explained to children in teaching so that anomalies later in life are apparent to them.
Clearly, there could be an infinite number of many situational “what if” scenarios, but this is only an aspect of “SA” preparedness. It is a skill like all others that must be practiced and utilized for success. It may be facilitated for the benefit of children in a “what if” game format scenario with necessary revisions mindful of your child’s ever evolving development. To further describe the “what if” context, consider a little league coach attempting to teach a child some fundamentals of infield baseball. By asking a child “what they would do if when playing second base with one out, a man on second no one on first and a ground ball hit to them what would they do?” Then, “What would they do if they were paying shortstop?” These “what if” scenarios of course have adaptable real life implications and can be continuously modified. As a parent you must provide your direction and insight with positive reinforcement in their problem solving capability. Repetition is paramount. To emphasize, in every scenario practiced with your child, the negative behavior unwanted, should be clearly distinguished and plainly discussed with your child.
You must thoroughly involve your child in other “SA” aspects that include but are not limited to residential scenarios and circumstances not under familiar settings. These include retail outlets, public gatherings, outside recreational activities etc.
How do you teach children to be more aware? Simply by starting games like “Did you notice?” Ask questions about their surroundings and making a game of it. Ask about people, the location of exits, displays, and what was going on in stores you were in. Practice more “what if” scenarios. Tell them what they should do if they ever become separated in a public area. Help your children identify physical characteristic of people like hair and eye color, tall or short etc. This will help them be able to identify and describe someone should they ever have to. Many schools are already proactive in this area due to mass casualty event training. Parents can be just as proactive with advanced and continuous “SA” training.
Further, as a parent it is also important to consider the “SA” skills of your caregiver and those considerations must be discussed in detail and periodically revisited to ensure the caregiver maintains proficiency.
For a good comprehensive book surrounding the situational mindset read Steve Kardian’s, “The New Super Power for Women” (https://www.amazon.com/New-Superpower-Women-Situations-Unthinkable/dp/B074CK3HWS )and don’t let the title fool you! Its contents are adaptable for all.
One of his briefer YOUTUBE videos brings that message to the point: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Lg4CknIZ8U
For those who like blogs and shorter articles with great pointers, check out: https://prettyloaded.org/category/situational-awareness-parents/