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Risky Business: Coping With Teens Risk Taking Behaviors

Let's face it.  If we parents had our way, our kids would never take any chances. We want them to always be safe, happy, and have a positive attitude.  Unfortunately, during the teen years, always being safe and happy can be mutually exclusive.

Teens usually want to take risks and need to as part of their development into responsible adults.  So rather than try to eliminate all risks from their lives, we might be better off helping them distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable risks.

In general, the difference between an acceptable and unacceptable risk lies in the balance of danger versus pleasure.  For instance, hiking without safety gear is an unacceptable risk because the chance of death or serious injury in case of an accident outweighs the slight increase in pleasure that may come from not wearing the proper attire.  On the other hand, extreme Rollerblading with the proper safety equipment may be an acceptable risk because the level of pleasure is high compared to the level of danger.  The bottom line is to try to avoid forbidding an activity outright, but to instead work with your teen to design safe ways to enjoy it.

The other concern with teens and risks is that the risk itself is some sort of passive suicide attempt.  If your teen seems to be taking more and more risks while at the same time becoming withdrawn and/or depressed, you should have a serious talk with her about why she is taking the risks.  If they do seem to be more self-destructive than pleasurable, put a stop to them immediately and seek professional help.

Finally, make sure your teen understands that some behaviors are never worth the risk.   These include drunk driving, taking drugs and having unprotected sex.  That's why it is so important to work with teens to help them find healthy outlets for their own needs to take risks.

We'll teach you how to #LiveTo100!

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