You are going on a hike through the woods; your 6-yr. old is lagging because the keep finding “amazing” stones/branches for their collections. You are talking to your wife and 4 yr. old as you walk along the twist and turns when suddenly you realize you don’t hear your oldest. What just happened? Is your family prepared? How are your situational awareness skills? Is this something that you work on teaching your children?
Before I became a mom, I was a covert Federal Agent conducting missions internationally and domestically. My ability to blend in and sense any change in the atmosphere are what made me extremely good at my job and kept me alive. After becoming a mom to 3 (twins included) my natural desire to protect was increased and I realized how vulnerable families are. I knew as an adult all the ways to “train” situational awareness but had to get creative in thinking how to best translate those techniques to teach kids (my own being only 6 and 3.5 years old).
What is Situational Awareness?
Situational Awareness at its core is being aware of what’s in your environment and any changes that could potential be a threat to you physically or to your health. By being aware of any change you give yourself the advantage of time; time to act and asses if you need to leave the area. In many cases your survival will depend on that advantage of time. What you notice can be simple like a change in the wind signaling an incoming storm, a smell of smoke away from your fire pit, or in the middle of summer a person entering an establishment dressed for winter. Situational Awareness is not about creating a state of paranoia that you operate in but rather an awareness that becomes second nature just like walking and reading. As a parent we teach our children life skills everyday why wouldn’t we want to teach them about awareness. A great way to work on a child’s (and adults) situational awareness skills is through play; the following games are easy to incorporate into your daily routine.
This is an easy game that our family plays daily. As I am going about my routine running errand’s I will randomly ask the kids questions. “What color car is parked next to us?”, “How many people were in the aisle when we got trash bags?”, “How many exits did you see in the store?”, “What color shirt was our cashier wearing?” as you see the questions are endless and you can start off very basic and progress as your child and you become more proficient. You can make it into a family challenge too with the kids trying to stump you!
Understanding how to read street signs and having a sense of direction are critical skills for children. In this game I (mom) announce “Oh no I am lost how do I get home?” I start this from a close easy location such as school, grandparents’ house, etc. They guide me home using landmarks and road signs. They will tell me to turn left on Monroe St, look there is the playground we need to go past that and turn at the next, etc. This game can be done while bike riding, hiking, driving (obviously obey traffic laws) and is great for teaching both situational awareness and direction.
This is a great way to work on situational awareness skills for all ages. The concept is simple take 5 steps, look around and find 3-5 items (mom or dad call out things; like something green, red, square, etc.), then 5 more steps, repeat. This not only teaches how to really look around but because you are limited on your ability to physically move it teaches you how to use items to look further (reflective objects like windows and mirrors). You can do this game both inside and outside along with adding other elements like a sibling who is hiding in the room.
The games above can be played with all ages; we start introducing them around toddler age. They are fluid and allow for you to make the adjustments needed to fit YOUR family; but don’t just limit them to the kid’s parents need to work on these skills as well. Situational Awareness is a tangible skill that we all need to continuously work on; nobody has ever regretted being more aware. Like Creek Stewart always says, “It’s not if but when.”