It’s that time of year again. Kids are headed back to school or getting ready for online learning or even getting settled into a homeschooling schedule. Whatever the case, the first few weeks of school activities are often fueled by anxiety or uncertainty with all the emerging stressors and the looming unknowns.

This is one reason I urge parents and teachers alike to take this transitional time as an opportunity to work with children on their emotional intelligence and put some focus on both interpersonal and intrapersonal awareness. Why? This knowledge can help kids develop better situational awareness and conflict avoidance. And those are at the core of an effective defensive mindset and factors that can potentially save lives!

Intuition and Awareness of Others

Although I could likely go on about both interpersonal and intrapersonal awareness for days, we don’t want to overwhelm anyone. Let’s focus on some of the basics. Intrapersonal awareness refers to an understanding of self. This might include thinking about and/or trying to understand more about why an individual does things or prefers things or acts/reacts in certain ways. This intrapersonal intelligence also comprises a person’s attitudes and feelings as well as his or her morals and principles.

It can also reflect a heightened focus on — or a stronger appreciation for — “intuition.” Intuition is that special sense that warns us or makes us aware of something unsavory or unsafe. Recognizing and nurturing this intrapersonal side can help kids process and manage what’s happening inside their own brains. And it can help them recognize and act on those subconscious warnings that are essential during dangerous encounters.

The other side of the coin is interpersonal intelligence, which relates to an understanding of other people. This is undeniably a skill we all need. But it is at a premium if you’re working on self-preservation and self-defense! Interpersonal intelligence may include a capacity to work well with others, persuade them, lead others and even “read” people. This means an individual can pick up on cues and clues regarding another’s intentions.

From Emotional Intelligence to Situational Awareness

So whether a child is literally or figuratively dodging a bully or if they’re encountering nonverbal or verbal communication that’s threatening, interpersonal intelligence is just as important a skill to recognize and develop.

Be sure to work with the children in your world on identifying and processing their own thoughts and actions as well as the thoughts and actions of others. It will help create more well-rounded and more well-prepared individuals for the challenges life may throw their way. Interpersonal and intrapersonal awareness are life-long skills that can benefit the kindergartner all the way through the senior in high school, just as much as the new hire at work all the way through the CEO! And it will be that much easier to work on additional situational awareness skills with a solid foundation of emotional intelligence.