As parents, our job is to protect and nurture our children.
Risk is an unavoidable part of life and actually even desirable for growth. Without risk, there is little opportunity.
The question becomes how do we encourage our children to take risks and still fulfill our roles as nurturers and protectors?
There are plenty of ways kids and teens can take risks, but some of those—drug use, unsafe driving, sneaking out, dangerous activities, unprotected sex, illegal behavior, and so on—are not healthy and don’t lead a person to become more resilient.
Resilience Is Bouncing Back
Resilience is the ability to bounce back, to recover from adversity. Part of teaching our children resilience is how to safely take risks. Safe risk-taking is about approaching risk-informed, taking baby steps, and with care.
Talk It Out
Have a conversation with your children about something they want to learn to do.
Talk about activities that they have concerns about. This conversation will be different depending on the age of your child of course.
In a younger child, it might be they want to ride a bike. In an older child, it might be learning an instrument, a sport, or joining a school group.
Once you have something that they are interested in that is new, here are some steps you can take to help them get there:
- Talk about why it’s important? What are the benefits? The source of the interests? Be thorough, look for a few reasons.
- Talk about the risks, or what might go wrong?
- Identify the “worst-case scenario”.
- Brainstorm with your child some baby steps to the goal- for example, what more can you learn together about what they want to learn or do so that they are fully informed?
- Set a goal for the smallest easiest step and support them in doing it by a certain day of their choosing.
- Check-in with them on the date- how did they do? If they did not take the step, what was missing? Support them in resetting it or setting a new, easier, in-between step.
- Reward them for every small success. If they take the action reward them for taking it by praising them. If they don’t take it, reassure them that they still can. Be supportive! This will help their self-esteem a lot.
Remember: Baby Steps
Pick something really simple to start our, go for an easy win.
It could be baking cookies or making pancakes. Build a series of small successes using the above steps.
The idea is we want to ingrain these steps in them by practicing them with them so that they can internalize them.
Our children are far more likely to consider carefully what are the risks of using drugs before they experiment if we can get them to think through benefits vs. risks for example.