By Rita Mullaney
As a member of the law enforcement community - first a beat cop, and later as a Sergeant in the Sex Offender's Monitoring Unit, I was trained to be aware. That seems kind of obvious for anyone with a basic working knowledge of the police. So, I guess, anyone in America. But this awareness factor has become a guiding principle in my life as a parent and I want to share it with other parents.
After over 20 years in the NYPD, I know how critical basic awareness is to everyone, and especially children, in staying safe. As a parent myself, I know our instinct is to want to shield kids and not upset them. By making conversations that raise awareness a part of your daily life, you don't frighten kids, you empower them. You also help them work their "awareness muscle" or Spidey sense, which is critical in making decisions to keep yourself safe.
I have tons of tips and techniques - and here is one of them:
Play "Around Me" whenever you are out and about with your kids. Teach them to start trying to remember details of cars and people they see.
For instance, if you are walking on your block, and a car drives by, you say:
"Who can tell me the color of the car that just drove by."
"How many doors did it have?"
Then: "Anyone get any letters in the license plate?"
Learning to quickly remember details can be linked to common mnemonic tools and can definitely add in school work, so there are great academic benefits to training yourself to remember information.
You can teach them: Apple, Banana, I could eat 3 Yogurts - you just got 4 digits in a license plate along with color and make. This is critical information.
Turn it into knowing who is around you on the street or in the store.
"Who can tell me how many people are behind us?" Can they tell you the gender, or hair color?
Being aware of who is around you is critical for personal safety, for adults and children. Too often, we are gazing down at a device or lost in the storm inside our heads. Being out and about in the world is a responsibility. Building this type of awareness-vocabulary into your lives sends a critical message about the role we play as individuals in knowing and adapting, or exiting, our environment. Early action on instincts can truly save lives.
Teaching your kids to be aware is the single most important tool you can give them.