By Kathy Green
Did you know that providing a safer environment for kids is one of the top reasons families choose homeschooling? Some research shows that it is THE top reason. Keeping our kids safe is part of every aspect of caring for them. We clothe them, we feed them, we shelter them, we teach them.
And we do all this using every safety measure we can possibly think of! Protecting our kids is ever on our minds, so the research makes perfect sense.
With the events that are currently happening around the world, and even in our own communities, it’s time to become more intentional about staying safe. Anxiety decreases for us, and for our children, when we know we have knowledge and skills to draw on.
Situational awareness is an important safety strategy, and it’s not just for grown-ups! Kids can develop these skills, too, to help them become more confident and less fearful. And who better than parents to teach this to their own children. Parents are best equipped for teaching situational awareness over time and with repetition, care, and relevance.
Simply put, situational awareness involves being aware of your surroundings, what’s normal and what’s not, comprehending and knowing instinctively what steps to take to be safe, and helping others to be safe, too. It’s what helps us to make good decisions in critical situations. It takes lots of practice.
How can we teach situational awareness to our children without instilling fear?
- Start by researching what the Bible says about avoiding evil and using caution and discernment. How are we called to do this from a Biblical perspective? Read and study some applicable Bible verses with your children and commit one to memory.
- Have plenty of conversations, and make sure to repeat and reinforce the messages you want to stick. Have a plan, teach the plan, repeat the plan, and practice the plan. Talk to your kids about meeting points. What do you want your children to do if ____________ (fill in the blanks)?
- Prayer is powerful. Teach your children a simple prayer that will come quickly to mind and will be said atomically in times of trouble. In times of crisis, our actions must come without a thought. Your prayer needs to come from a well-formed habit of saying it often and aloud. Practice your prayer with your children in times of minor distress to help form the habit! Teach them to pray daily for God’s protection and to ask for their guardian angels to lead, guard and guide.
- Drill contact information. Make sure your children know their address and phone numbers and their parents’ full names, as well as who they can and cannot share that information with.
- Learn about the Cooper Color Code. This easy, 4-color code (white, yellow, orange, and red) provides a concrete way to help kids to think about what their mindset should be in different kinds of environments. Practice it with your kids in a wide variety of locations!
- Spend time people watching. Sharpen observation skills by studying others. Have your child describe someone they see using as many descriptive adjectives as possible. Watch for body language that may tell something more.
- Play Games. Kids love games and learn well when at play. Board games, I Spy, Hide and Seek, scavenger hunts, treasure hunts. Games of all kinds provide fun ways to teach critical thinking, observation skills, and strategizing.
- Get outside in nature. Nature provides lots of opportunities for situational awareness training. Take a quiet hike. Stop, listen, and observe. Go animal tracking on a snowy day. Find out more about “stealth walking” and practice it!
- Find all the exits. When you go places, locate all the exit signs. Find alternatives to regular exits, too. Where are some places to find cover if necessary?
- Read good books and watch movies that teach situational awareness lessons. Good stories make great teaching tools. Here are some to consider:
- The Cay by Theodore Taylor
- The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh
- Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
- Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
- The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
- When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant
These 10 steps are meant to be a starting point for incorporating situational awareness into your curriculum. Be sure to do your own research and dig deeper whenever there is a strong interest!
Kathy Green and her husband, Ed, founded Homeschoolers of Maine (HOME) in 1990 to provide information, support, and encouragement to homeschoolers throughout the state. Kathy oversees the daily operations of the organization and enjoys helping the many homeschool families that reach out daily. She and her husband have four daughters and twelve grandchildren. They reside in the town of Hope.