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Risk Taking

Testing boundaries and taking some risks is a healthy way for your child to learn limits. However, you might worry about them getting hurt or worse.

Boy climbing rock wall

Seeing your child engage in risk taking behaviour can be scary. You might worry about your child’s safety or the safety of others.

As a parent you can help your child to learn about their limits and to stay safe by being aware of the risks or harm that your child might face.

  • Trying new things and testing the limits is normal at all developmental stages and it helps young people to learn through experience
  • Risk taking involves activities that may result in harm to oneself or someone else
  • Harmful risk taking by your child may potentially lead to health, legal and relationship problems

Why do kids take risks?

Tune into your child and notice the signs. Their risk taking may be influenced by:

  • Peer pressure
  • Modelling what they see in the media
  • Boredom and a need to be challenged
  • Belief that nothing bad will happen to them
  • Mental health issues
  • Modelling behaviour of friends and family
  • Questioning the boundaries or norms of society
  • Absence of positive role models

What types of risks might your child take?

There are different forms of risk taking and the level of risk usually depends on the age of your child. Some concerns you might have include:

  • Drug and alcohol use
  • Unsafe sexual activity
  • Exposure to risks online
  • Illegal or dangerous activities and gang involvement

Risk taking can have short and long term consequences for your child

Potential consequences of risk taking include:

Health – Drug and alcohol use can cause impaired judgement, physical harm and health problems.

Legal – Criminal convictions, fines or imprisonment for possession of illegal substances or gang involvement. Sexting may lead to your child being charged with child pornography related offences.

Relationship and Social – Under the influence of drugs or alcohol your child may behave differently and do damage to their reputation, especially if an image is posted online. This can also affect future job prospects.

How can you encourage your child to avoid risks that might cause harm?

Communicating calmly and openly and being a good role model helps your child to manage their level of risk when they are not with you.

Here are some tips:

  • Give them information about risks by having calm discussions
  • Talk about the rules and help them understand why they’re important
  • Encourage safe yet interesting activities like sports or performing arts
  • Talk openly about peer pressure and discuss their ways of dealing with it
  • Talk with a Parentline counsellor for support and more tips

Risk taking in kids can create a lot of stress and worry

But you're not alone. It’s normal to want to keep your child safe and to worry about them getting hurt.

This content was last reviewed 03/05/2018

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