Learning to assess hazards and understand risks in life is a normal part of an adult’s every day – but how did we learn to do this – and how can we teach our children to do the same?
Taking risks, and learning from them is an inevitable and important part of growing up. As a parent or carer, it is our responsibility to encourage healthy risk-taking behaviour. By understanding different types of such behaviour and the motivation behind them, you can set children up for success and reduce their risk of harm in future life.
Children take risks for a number of reasons. As some children develop mastery of a task, they take risks to improve their skills, for example, as a pre-schooler, they may try balancing on logs in their favourite park, which then, can lead onto them walking on top of a wall by a river as they turn into teenagers! Some risk-taking behaviours stem from an effort to assert independence and develop autonomy.
We tend to associate the term risk with dangerous activities, but risk taking behaviors can be healthy too. For example, when your child steps outside of their comfort zone and participates in a new activity, or when they are joining a new leisure club, or auditioning for a role in the latest school play – these all come with risk and sometimes disappointment, but isn’t that a part of learning how to deal with new situations when they are older?
Such healthy risk-taking behaviors are a normal and important part of child development and should be encouraged as your children learn to make good choices and become more skilled and independent.
The tendency as parents to wrap children in cotton wool has transformed how some children experience childhood today. It is important to remember that risk taking is a normal part of a child’s development; it allows a child to define his identity and grow as an individual.
When children play, they go from what they know and can do – and what is therefore familiar and boring – to what is engaging, exciting, uncertain and new. Through taking risks, children build their capabilities, explore their emotions, expand their horizons, and test boundaries. They also gain practical experience of taking responsibility for their own safety.
So, talk to your children about the risks and discuss ways to reduce the negative aspects of risk. Give your child opportunities to participate in healthy risk-taking behaviour, as well as modeling appropriate risk-taking behaviour yourself. Be brave by stepping back and giving your child space but ensure you’re within reach comfortable to you!
Amanda Bennett, Schoolhouse Director