Positive risk-taking

I recently read an article in ParentMap called, "The elephant in the room: Talking to kids about the economy". In the article, it states: In an ABC News poll conducted last November, 75% of 12- to 17-year-olds who said that their parents were worried about the economy also said they were worried themselves.

It goes on to say: And stress can have negative effects on physiological and psychological well-being -- effects that often manifest themselves in poor decision-making. Including the use of alcohol or marijuana.

Since the article was written by Stephen Wallace, I checked out his website. He is the national chairman of SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) so I re-visited their website, as well. Their Teens Today page has links to many studies having to do with teenagers and the decisions they make.

One that I found particularly interesting has to do with providing teenagers with positive risk-taking opportunities. Here's what I cut and pasted:

The Teens Today 2004 research identified three broad categories of positive risk-taking.

  1. Life Risks
    • Social – e.g. joining a club or group
    • Emotional – e.g. asking someone on a date or sharing feelings with friends
    • Physical – e.g. rock climbing
  2. School Risks
    • Academic – e.g. taking an advanced placement course
    • Athletic – e.g. trying out for a sports team
    • Extracurricular – e.g. running for student council
  3. Community Risks
    • Volunteering – e.g. helping the elderly or homeless
    • Mentoring – e.g. working with younger children
    • Leading – e.g. starting a business or charity

What Does This Mean for Families and Friends?

Both middle school (52 percent) and high school (42 percent) teens are most likely to say their parents do the most to positively influence them to challenge themselves, followed closely by their friends (29 percent in middle school and 36 percent in high school). These findings are consistent with past Teens Today studies that have shown that parents and peers have tremendous influence on teen behavior. For example, teens who report regular, open communication with their parents about important issues say they are more likely to try to live up to their parents’ expectations and less likely to drink, use drugs, or engage in early sexual behavior.

Parents and peers can help teens to take positive risks by:

  • Modeling inclusive social behavior and coaching peer-to-peer social skills;
  • Identifying and discussing emotional reactions to issues or events;
  • Encouraging focus on academics and consideration of higher level courses;
  • Supporting club or activity membership and/or athletic participation; and
  • Involving family and friends in community-service project(s).