You’ve seen me write before about situational awareness for adults. But what about for kids? When is it too early to talk to you children about being situationally aware? In my opinion, it’s never too early. But it can be a hard subject to broach. Many parents are afraid they will scare their children if they talk about the bad stuff that happens in our world. Will it make any difference if I tell you that your kids already know about the bad stuff? They are looking for guidance and permission to keep themselves safe. Keep reading for five tips that might help. I’ll be back next month with more.
1) Safe zones. Teach your child about safe zones both at home and when you are out and about. For example, if there is a fire in your home and escape is necessary, where would everyone in your family meet? A trusted neighbor's house, the mailbox, or the stop sign? If you are out and about, pick a meeting location such as a specific register number, or the store next door if evacuation is necessary and you become separated.
2) Eye contact. Many times, direct eye contact could be the one and only thing that is needed to thwart a person's plan to harm you. Let the person know you see them and you are aware of them.
3) Inventory. If a person is making them nervous, take a quick inventory of what he/she looks like and what they are wearing. You can practice this by having your child understand what the word describe means and how to describe people or items (like cars).
4) Words. Listen to what the person is saying.
Are they asking questions? Don't answer questions from adults you don't know - it's your parent's job to answer personal questions.
Are they digging for information about you, your parents, your address? Again, only parents are allowed to answer those questions.
Are they telling you to come closer to them? Do the opposite. Create more distance by backing up. That is a cue that you are not comfortable.
Are they asking for help? It's a grown up's job to help another adult you don't know, not yours.
Are they offering you something? Always get your parent's permission first before taking any item from a person you don't know.
5) Safe adults. Talk about safe adults and who can help them if you aren't available.
An employee or manager at a store (make sure you look for their name badge).
Another parent with children.
A trusted neighbor.
And the obvious - police, fire, and medic.
Having open conversations with your kids will help gauge what is happening in their world and can assist with creating dialogue about safety within the family. Kids are people too. They get to do what it takes to keep themselves safe. Giving them tips and permission goes a long way, and might offer you a little peace of mind.