Thursday, May 13, 2010

Teens Take Risks: Ideas for Keeping Kids Safe

NPR had an excellent story this week on the teenage tendency to take risks. As they point out, teens “engage in risk-taking behaviors to find out who they are, not to rebel or get back at the parent.”

Given this reality, a parent’s job is to help teens take “safe” risks so that they’re not tempted to engage in unhealthy behavior that can have lifelong consequences—like drinking, drugs, or unsafe sexual activity. From the piece:
What are some examples of healthy risk-taking activities?
Sports and developing artistic and creative abilities -- be it through art or theater -- are all activities that involve healthy levels of risk-taking. Teens can engage in volunteer activities, and even Internet activities. It can be as simple -- and as scary -- as getting up on stage, or asking somebody out, says Steinberg. All these behaviors may satisfy a teen's need to push boundaries, but are usually in an environment where there's very little harm that could result.

The article also recognizes that parents—often unintentionally—role model behavior for their kids.
Adults have patterns of risk-taking, too -- think about what they are, and model good behavior. …Steinberg agrees. "Teens who drink a lot often come from households where their parents drink a lot. Teens model their parents. Even though parents think their teens ignore them, they watch them."

What are some other kinds of healthy risk-taking behaviors that we can encourage in teens? What are some ways that you have changed your behavior to model healthy actions for a young person in your life? Share your ideas in the comments section.

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