119 of 1000 – Situational Awareness

Me, “Teach situational awareness.” Tip 19

It was important to me to teach Michael situational awareness. I wanted him to pay attention to his surroundings primarily for safety reasons; however, also just because it’s smart in all environments to take notice of who and what is in the general vicinity.

I knew Michael would be navigating the school yard without me in no time. I had a lot less than 5 years to teach him to observe his environment in my absence. I took that seriously, felt the urgency and I started to develop these skills very early.

I taught Michael to assess his surroundings, and I reinforced this always. With every new adventure, scene and opportunity I would call his attention to the details, the danger and the delight.

Lessons became even stronger when teachable moments would appear. Teachable situations opened the door for many important conversations. For example, if we saw a child, or a parent, behaving badly we would talk about that. If we saw potential danger we would talk about that, maybe children skating on a pond. We would talk about potential risk, signs of safety. I tried to cover it all.

I remember telling Michael, “When you get to your new class look around. If you are smart you can see the trouble, you can spot it and stay clear of it even before it happens. Always scan the room.” I would counsel, look for the “good” kids, the smart kids. Find the kids who don’t get in trouble, those looking to learn.

Peer pressure was a big topic for us. We discussed that a lot, how to spot it, avoid it, and never participate in it. Without these conversations how can I child recognize when it is happening?

In my upbringing I was not taught to be aware of my surroundings. I was discouraged from formulating opinions, taking a stand or critically thinking. In the absence of these skills I knew how valuable they were.

I knew discussing surroundings, scenarios, personal choice, and critical thinking would help to keep Michael safe and avoid pitfalls. I knew, if Michael would first assess a situation he would make better choices in terms of his own behavior and his chosen friendships.

I would advise, know the room, and know the exits, key players, mean people and helpers. Be on the lookout for opportunity and pitfalls. Be smart, be aware and think ahead.

When teaching this, role play, script building and discussing scenarios can be helpful in developing enhancing decision making abilities. Help them to interpret the things around them, objectively. Teach them context and perspective.

For example, if Michael came home with tales of classroom disruption we would talk about the impact on everyone including the teacher. We would talk about why that child may have been disruptive, what positive role Michael could play (if only not becoming involved). We might talk about how the other children may have been feeling.

For some, this process and discussion may seem to be a lot about nothing. I would argue it sets the foundation for everything.

The conversation is not so much about the topic, the teacher or the disruption – it’s about the process of observation, processing and decision making. I strongly believe we as parents have to develop these skills. If we do not, much time will be wasted.

I didn’t want Michael to spend time in ditches and indecision. I didn’t want him spending years, or a lifetime, attempting to repair uninformed decisions. I wanted to spare him life delays.

I know for sure, every conversation we had regarding awareness was time well spent.

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