Teaching Kids About Situational Awareness

What Is Situational Awareness

Situational awareness (SA) is technically defined as “the perception of the elements in the environment within a volume of time and space, the comprehension of their meaning and the projection of their status in the near future.” Simply put, it is knowing what is happening around you. SA can be cultivated by being attentive and using your intuitive skills. You grow to observe what is going on around you, know what is normal, identify a deviation when it occurs, and respond to that deviation accordingly.

SA has been identified as a key process that helps in making successful decisions across a broad spectrum of scenarios involving protection of human life. It has been pivotal in sectors such as aviation, navigation, health care, defense, emergency care and many others. SA training helps prevent judgement errors from taking place thereby improving efficiency while handling high-risk situations.

For instance, historically SA was used by the military to develop tactics for finding location of the enemy, calculate their approach, and plan next steps. In the 1980s, commercial airlines used SA in developing integrated navigation displays that more efficiently showed flight parameters and reduced pilot workload. By understanding the present, SA helped in predicting the future and gave people the power to radically impact the outcome of a situation.

Why Learning About Situational Awareness Is Important

Learning situational awareness helps you both professionally and personally. Business leaders use SA to study past actions and events, analyze what is happening currently, and steer their business towards a more positive future. Armed with SA knowledge, leaders can create effective business strategy that gives clarity to their operational goals. This way, threats are addressed early on and losses minimized in an efficient manner.

Teaching children about SA helps them in comprehending and assessing complications of the world they live in from an early age. It makes them responsible about their own safety as well as that of their family members and friends. It also acquaints them with generic rules of the community.

Situational awareness enables children to be independent and assertive while they become familiar with their environment. It also helps them to be confident when faced with challenging circumstances. Ultimately, SA sharpens a child’s perceptive intelligence thereby assisting them in solving cognitive tasks at school or at home.

How Can You Be More Situationally Aware

Situational awareness is more of a mindset than a skill, and thus can be learnt by anyone. The first step in developing this mindset is to recognize the fact that threats exist everywhere. By refusing to acknowledge the existence of threats, a person’s ability to fight uncomfortable situations diminishes greatly. Overcoming one’s ignorance paves the way for the second step in becoming situationally aware.

You should learn to take accountability for your actions and personal security. Resources are finite, and a substitute for a lack of enough safety personnel in your neighborhood could be you. By using SA, you can help an elderly neighbor to safely cross the road or provide shelter to a homeless animal before a thunderstorm.

You should also learn to use your intuition to prevent accidents from happening. Our subconscious mind often notices alarming signs that the conscious mind does not always recognize. Using your gut while walking down unfamiliar lanes or dark alleys can help you avoid potentially dangerous encounters.

Lastly, be intentional while using SA. Practicing situational awareness requires you to put in effort and pay attention to your surroundings when it is hard not to get distracted. Observe people, places, and activities around you and try to remain focused on your present.

Ways You Can Teach Situational Awareness to Children

Children are believed to be more intuitive and observant than adults. Training them to be perceptive from a young age will help them deal with problems when you are not around. Below is a five-step strategy that you could use to make your child more situationally aware:

1. Recognize the Baseline

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Firstly, you need to acquaint your child with a baseline, which are situations, objects, and behaviors that are considered normal. Identifying the normal will help them see when something is not normal.

For instance, take your child to her favorite restaurant. Ask her to name the street where the restaurant is located and what is located opposite to that restaurant. When you are seated at the table, ask her what the difference is between a waiter and a customer. Discuss with her how people should normally behave when they are in a public place such as a restaurant.

Communicating about these things helps to instill in your child what she would consider normal at a restaurant. Make sure you constantly discuss the baseline with her at other environments like a lake, a concert, a park, pharmacy, and so forth. This way you can update her understanding of the baseline and help her identify deviations from the baseline.

2. Be Aware of Biases

When you are in comfortable surroundings, you may often overlook signs that need your attention. An example of this could be when you are arriving at a traffic signal and see the green light turning to yellow. When you reach the intersection and the light has been yellow for a few seconds, you will want to slow down and proceed with caution instead of driving quickly through it. Instead, many people pick up their speed and keep driving with the hope of avoiding being stopped by the red light.

It is important to be mindful of biases like the above since you could get a ticket for violating a traffic stop if you happen to drive through a red light. Teach your child to be watchful and alert whenever he steps outside the house. Show him how to trust his instincts and fight bias when it comes to personal safety.

3. Identify Any Inconsistency

Once you have worked on establishing baselines, your child will be able to identify abnormalities when they happen. These could in the form of an unexpected person or an event or behavior. As an example, give your child walnuts without the shell for five consecutive days. On day 6, give her a walnut with the shell and see what she does with it. You can also do several exercises outdoors where you can teach your child to spot similarities and differences between objects.

When your child does these activities successfully, she will be able to identify larger and more serious abnormalities when they take place. For instance, take your child to a zoo, and ask her to alert you whenever she hears a strange noise or a strong odor. Explain where these noises or smells are coming from. By expanding her knowledge, you are helping your child in safely navigating inconsistencies she does not see each day.

4. Avoid Being An Anomaly

Sometimes you find yourself in situations where you draw attention to yourself and affect the baseline. Teach your child to be aware when she is changing the baseline herself. If she drifts off from you at a clothing store and is wandering around by herself, she could be drawing attention of adults as a potential lost child. If people approach her and ask her about it, she could go back to the baseline by explaining herself.

5. Respond to the Inconsistency

Situational awareness teaches you to respond to a certain scenario and being able to respond in a matured fashion creates an impact on the people around you.  Show your son specific instances of how you would react in unexpected situations. For instance, what would you do if you lost your car keys? Or if you burn your hand while cooking?

Test how your child responds to anomalies by using a variety of exercises. Familiarize her with the neighborhood streets leading up to where she lives. Instead of taking the same route to get her home, take a different road one day and ask her what route will take her home. Try doing similar activities with her regularly so that you can enhance her confidence and problem-solving skill.

Situational Awareness Questions to Ask Your Child

To improve your child’s SA level, here is a game that you can play with her. Ask her questions about objects, people, and places she comes across each day and give her a situational awareness score based on her answers. Below is a list of possible questions you could ask:

Object Questions-

1. What was the name of the park we went to?

2. How many flags were at the entrance?

3. What flavor of ice-cream did we both eat?

4. Why is meat in the frozen aisle while chips are not?

5. What is the color of the shirt we bought for you?

6. What type of car was parked next to us in the parking lot?

People Questions-

1. Who was the cashier at the grocery store?

2. How many customers were there at the diner aside from us?

3. Was the waiter friendly?

4. Who did we see at the movie theatre last night?

5. Who was the scientist you spoke to?

6. What was the tall man carrying in his right hand?

Place Questions-

1. How far is our home from the grocery store?

2. What street is your school located at?

3. Where did we go to holiday last weekend?

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4. What is the name of the pharmacy we visit?

5. Is the hospital near our home?

6. Where would you seek shelter if there was a tornado warning?

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