Teenagers are notorious risk takers. While some risk taking is a normal stage of development, the consequences can be significant and parents want to know what they can do to help their teen make better choices. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Risk-taking and being a teenager go hand-in-hand, and it’s probably unreasonable to expect otherwise. Certain types of risks are healthy such as trying out a new hobby or sport, making new friends, or aiming for a goal you thought you couldn’t achieve. You should do what you can to encourage positive risk-taking with your teen.
2. Teens are impulsive and don’t fully appreciate consequences in the same way that adults do. There is a fine line between being overly strict (which can result in more rebellion) and being able to set firm, appropriate limits. Many parents avoid confrontation about difficult topics because it makes them and their child uncomfortable. Don’t take the path of least resistance – do what you need to do to keep your child safe and help guide them through their choices.
3. Kids are very influenced by their peers. Their social group matters – a lot. While you can’t and shouldn’t choose their friends for them you can be a stable, positive, and powerful influence.
4. Teenagers who are abusing drugs or alcohol or have a serious mental health condition are at even higher risk for harmful behaviors. Seek out professional help.
5. Risk-taking, particularly in young women, is often related to low self-esteem. Focusing on that as the problem as opposed to the actual behavior may have better results.
6. In a very concrete and age-appropriate way help your teen evaluate risks and potential consequences. You can’t assume that they will do it on their own.
7. Ask your kid if anything is wrong and how you can help. Seems very basic, but a key question that a lot of parents seem to miss. Risk-taking is sometimes your teens way of saying they are in pain.