Risk-taking is a normal part of the growing process in childhood and adolescence. However, whether a teen takes healthy risks or unhealthy risks is largely influenced by parental behavior. If you have a teen and you want to learn how to influence him or her to take healthy risks, please read this article.
Risk-taking behavior is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, all of us take risks. However, there is a distinction between healthy and unhealthy risks. According to Mental Help, healthy risks for teens to take may include participating in high school sports, playing in a musical group, such as an orchestra, starting to date socially, and taking part in a school play. Some other instances of healthy risks teens may take include learning to play a new musical instrument, getting a summer job, and performing in a talent show. On the other hand, teens may also take unhealthy risks, which may include having unprotected sex, experimenting with drugs, drinking and driving, and texting or talking on a cell phone while driving.
Peer pressure may play a part in teens taking unhealthy risks. However, parental behavior has a significant impact on which risks teens decide to take. Here are some things parents can do to help their kids take healthy, appropriate risks, rather than unhealthy, dangerous ones.
Be Aware and Model Good Behavior: As a parent, you first need to be aware of your own risk-taking behavior. Assess what risks you take and determine which ones are healthy and which ones are not. For instance, do you drive after you’ve had too much to drink? Do you talk on your cell phone while driving? Did you apply for that promotion you wanted at work? Did you ask a colleague you’d like to be friends with outside the workplace out for coffee?
After determining which risks you take are unhealthy, you need to work on stopping those behaviors. Telling your kids to do what you say, not what you do won’t work. Both children and teens watch what you do, whether you think they are or not, according to NPR. Thus, you need to model good behavior for your kids; model the behavior in which you want them to engage. For instance, if you don’t want your teen to drink excessively, you should drink in moderation. Furthermore, you must be responsible about your drinking and have a designated driver if you go out to have a few drinks if you don’t want your teens to drink and drive.
Communicate: Communicating with your teen can be difficult at times, but keeping the lines of communication open between you is essential. Research has discovered that communication about sex between parent and child is associated with decreased sexual risk-taking by teens. Additionally, researchers found that conversations about sex between parent and child are most effective at reducing sexual risk-taking behavior in teens when these conversations occur before the teen’s first sexual experience. Furthermore, researchers discovered that almost 80% of teens declare that what their parents might think and what their parents have said impact their decisions about relationships and sex. Thus, it seems important for parents to begin talking to their children about unhealthy risk-taking behavior at an early age. Additionally, if you talk to your teen everyday about his or her life, how school was, and so forth, he or she is more likely to talk to you when one has questions or a problem.
For instance, if your teen expresses interest in having sex, perhaps you can talk to your adolescent about how to have safe sex rather than telling your teen it’s forbidden to have sex. Telling your adolescent he or she can’t do something usually makes him or her want to do it more. However, if you talk to your teen about having responsible sex, such as using condoms and birth control and talk about reasons for wanting to have sex, your teen will likely make better decisions regarding sex.
Educate: If your teen knows the risk of the behaviors they are considering engaging in, they are less likely to try them. For instance, you can educate your teens on the dangers of drug use and of the risky nature of drinking and driving. You can go to the website, Parents – The Anti-Drug, for more information on how to talk to your child about different types of drugs, including alcohol.
Provide Encouragement: Another important technique you can use to help keep your teen from engaging in unhealthy risks is to provide him or her with positive encouragement. Some teens may engage in unhealthy risk-taking because they have low self-esteem. If your adolescent takes a healthy risk, praise him or her, even if he or she doesn’t do as well at it as he or she would have liked. If your teen participates in a sport, go to his or her games to show your support and commend his or her hard work and effort. Try to give your adolescent a compliment everyday to build one’s self-esteem. When a teen feels good about himself or herself, he or she is less likely to engage in unhealthy, dangerous risky behavior.
Stress Management: Teens experience a lot of stress today between school, family, and extra-curricular activities. Thus, some teens turn to unhealthy risk-taking in order to cope with their stresses. Talking to your teen about the stresses he or she experiences as well as how he or she can cope with them in a healthy manner may help prevent your adolescent from engaging in dangerous behaviors.
If you are a parent concerned about the behaviors your adolescent may engage in, try some of the suggestions above for encouraging your teen to take healthy risks. If you are aware of your own behavior as well as model good behavior for your child, he or she is more likely to take healthy rather than unhealthy risks.
Mental Help: Teenage Risk-Taking and Parental Behavior:
NPR: Q&A Teaching Kids to Take Healthy Risks:
National Association of Social Workers: Parents, Peers, and Pressures: Identifying the Influence on Responsible Sexual Decision-Making:
Parents Matter: Relationship Between Parent-Child Communication and Risk-Taking Behavior:
Parents – The Anti-Drug: Home: