We Can Be Blissfully Unaware of Our Surroundings and Distracted Much More Than We Realize. Teaching Situational Awareness to Kids Can Be Lifesaving.
Being married to a soldier changes how you view the world. Especially if you have a spouse who has served overseas and in combat. They struggle with crowded or confusing places and react to seemingly normal situations in unusual ways.
The main reason for this isn’t what most people believe it is. As I’ve met and talked with soldiers and law enforcement I’ve noticed that they all have the same reactions to these things.
Situational awareness is being aware of your surroundings, the place you’re at, the actions of others, especially furtive actions. In a world of increasing violence and crime being aware serves many purposes:
- Protection– the oblivious are a favorite victim of criminals.
- Warning- you’ll see danger before it starts so you can react accordingly to save your own life and/or others.
- Information- you’ll able to accurately recall vital information in the case of a crime or threat to give police.
As one soldier explained to another “There’s nothing wrong with you, it’s them.” Most soldiers tend to view our blissful innocence as a negligence, they have their eyes open to the dangers of the world.
Children, to the exasperation of most parents, are especially unaware, often risking their lives because of it. We teach them to be aware of vehicles before crossing the road and stranger danger, but in today’s world, we need to teach them more. This can be tricky without making them afraid of the entire world.
My husband was listening to Lars Larson on the radio and they shared this idea to teach children during the show. He immediately began doing this game with our kids, at least whenever he’s out and about with them. I’ll admit I’m super distracted at the store as my awareness is wrapped up in keeping all hands, feet and other objects in the cart, and trying to remember what’s on my list that I left at home.
It has made me more aware of my surroundings as I’m running errands. Once you start playing the game you’ll realize you are blissfully unaware as well.
The Situational Awareness Game
Begin by asking your kids questions after leaving a store. Ask about people, the location of exits, displays, and what was going on in the store while you were there.
It’s important to vary the questions so they don’t know exactly what you’ll ask. You want them to become aware and not how to focus on what they think we want to hear. These are just general guidelines to give you an idea. You’ll find this activity is just as challenging for adults as for children. We are blissfully unaware of our surroundings or simply distracted much more than we realize.
These are just general guidelines to give you an idea. You’ll find this activity is just as challenging for adults as for children. We are blissfully unaware of our surroundings or simply distracted much more than we realize.
Level 1: Place Awareness
- Where were the bathrooms?
- Where were the exits?
- Was there an entrance and an exit?
- Where is __ aisle? (Choose something besides toys, they always know where that is)
- Where was the kitchen? Waiters prep area?
- Where did we park?
- Which entrance did we come in at? Left through?
- Where would you seek safety if there was an earthquake?
Once they can answer these questions with ease and accuracy with each store, restaurant, or building you’ll know they’ve been trained to look for at their surroundings. At this point, it’s becoming natural and you can challenge them to see more than just the place. Be sure to continue with some of the Level 1 questions.
Level 2: People Awareness
- What was the cashier wearing?
- Do the employees have a uniform? If so what is it?
- What color hair did the waitress have?
- Was the cashier wearing glasses?
- Was the person on the bench outside the bathrooms a boy or girl?
- What did the look like?
- What were they wearing?
- What was the greeter’s name?
Requirements for Level 3 are the same as Level 2, and now you’ll ask questions from both level 1 and 2, you just won’t have to ask as many of them. You just need to make sure their awareness is expanded not just shifting.
Level 3: Thing Awareness
- What stickers were on the cashier’s name tag?
- What was displayed by the entrance?
- Describe the wallpaper in the bathroom.
- What food was on the aisle we walked down to get to the milk?
- What color and type of car did we park next to when we got here?
- Describe your favorite picture displayed in the restaurant.
- What food did I have trouble deciding to purchase?
Eventually, you’ll be able to start really stretching your abilities and theirs. They will begin to notice the unusual and mundane around them. The ultimate goal is to become aware of where we are, where we are going, and who and what is around us.
Teaching situational awareness can be lifesaving for your children. What are the first questions will you ask your kids about their surroundings?
At some point your kids will ask you, why are we playing this game? And then you have a teachable moment. However, kids ask “why” about all kinds of grown up things that they aren’t necessarily mentally equipped to comprehend without fear. However, I’m doubting the best reply to give my 11 year old nephew is, “Because honey, there suddenly could be a terrorist plowing a truck into a crowd of people, or a crackhead hiding behind a car, at any moment. And I need to be aware in case I’ve got to shoot them to save your life.” Even though that is a real and daily part of why I’m being situationally aware, there’s got to be a better way to ease youngsters into grown up awareness than that kind of blunt reply. Suggestions?
Just as with anything else, you use age appropriate explanations. We don’t tell our 11 year olds that we are teaching stranger danger because “someone may molest or murder you”, we tell them that “some people are bad”, or maybe just “mean”. We may further lessen that to “not everyone is your friend” for our 5 year olds. Likewise, tell your 11 year old that we play the self awareness game “so we know what’s going on around us”, or “in case something bad happens”, etc.
Anne Kirk says
This is AWESOME! My husband and I teach Krav Maga and the first thing we teach people of all ages is situational awareness. We play these games with our 8 year old daughter and she has actually started testing me! Wonderful article! Thank you!
Good article. I read it to learn why a kid I knew in HS had an uncanny abillity to know in what subdiv or neighborhood nearlly every student lived. Our HS had at least 2000 kids! The person claimed to know patterns–which school buses went where & who assoc w/ who to iinclude remembering who played on what Littlle League team. Any ideas abt this or was the kid just nosey?