As a parent, the words ‘risk-taking’ might fill you with dread. However, the reality is that healthy risk-taking is actually good for your son and you should encourage healthy risk-taking. We know from research that adolescence is a time of significant growth and development inside the teenage brain, combined with an increase in testosterone and peer pressure — encouraging the desire to engage in potentially risky behaviours.
Discouraging any risk-taking could have the potential to lead to risky behaviour at an age where boys will often respond on impulse, rather than thinking practically. In fact, youth expert, Chris Hudson believes that by encouraging healthy risk-taking, you may in fact be reducing your son’s unhealthy risk-taking without him even realising.
Here are some ways to encourage healthy risk-taking in boys.
Let your son take healthy risks
Try channelling his energy into rewarding and (relatively) safe activities with the possibility of failing. These might include any physical or creative pursuit, or another new and stimulating experience. If your son is a thrill-seeker, it might be something a little more extreme, such as rock-climbing or parkour, or it could be the rush of performing in front of an audience. You might even consider engaging in healthy risk-taking with your son — modelling healthy risk-taking together.
Give him some independence
Boys need to test their own limits and abilities, as well as the boundaries set by their parents. Giving your son some autonomy and allowing him to explore his freedom, without taking unhealthy risks, can be liberating and helps develops resilience. At an age appropriate stage, remember that it is a period of his life where he is learning to depend on you less and take responsibility for himself, his actions and forming his own identity. Be prepared for mistakes (from both parties).
Maintain a strong and healthy relationship with your son
Teenagers who have good relationships with their parents are less susceptible to the negative influences of peer pressure. Talk to your son about peer pressure and equip him with the ability to know it’s okay to say ‘no’ in situations where he feels uncomfortable. Get to know your son’s friends and who he is spending time with — another way in which you can monitor and limit his exposure to potentially risky situations. Talking openly and honestly about issues, such as sex and drug use, as well as values, also has the potential to reduce unhealthy risk-taking behaviour.
Taking risks is part of everyday life. Encourage your son to take healthy risks and provide him with a safe environment to navigate challenges, explore his independence and build positive relationships with others.
Healthy risk-taking is important for mental health and wellbeing. At Christ Church Grammar School, boys learn how to apply strategies for healthy living through The Wynne Centre for Boys’ Health and Wellbeing. If you are interested in gaining further insight on boys’ health and wellbeing or other helpful tips on raising boys, subscribe to our enewsletter.