TAKING SAFE RISKS – The Secret to GROWTH in our Children!
The rise of the Helicopter Mom in the past two decades has also given rise to a generation of young adults ill-prepared for the real world – lacking grit, resiliency and coping skills.
The natural tendency for most parents is to protect their young, just like a lioness with her cubs. But the lion knows when it’s time to take their young out into the jungle to learn to hunt; aware that one day soon, they will have to provide for the pack. For many human parents, this is realized too late.
A Mom/friend of mine has a school bus stop in front of her house, yet insists on driving her children to school – why? She is concerned about what will be heard or said to her kids without adult supervision. But sheltering her kids from the bus also shelters them from the vital potential learning experience of navigating uncharted waters of socialization and communication. Like flowers, our children need to be outside in the sun (and world) to flourish.
Taking risks and making mistakes are essential learning experiences and keys to a child’s development into a healthy, independent and functioning adult. What’s important is having an understanding of what is safe in terms of risk-taking, and what risky behavior can constitute a lack of safety. This can only happen though, with parents willing to encourage safe risk taking.
This doesn’t mean just giving your child carte blanche on climbing a tree. We need to mentor our kids as to which tree is climbable, when to climb, how high to climb, and to climb with a friend. Allowing your child to purchase items at the store on their own, trusting them to be out of your field of sight , trusting them to walk to the park, sleep over a friend’s house – are all real situations for our kids, and are all “teachable moments” for parents to talk through the risks with their kids, while knowing the rewards of allowing them to do so.
I think back to when I went away to college, to my friend who slept through all of his finals before he dropped out of school. At home, his mother woke him up every day of his life, so he never learned how to do it himself. Young adults cannot judge what “safe risks” are without the guidance of adults coaching them through the risky opportunities that present themselves each day.
One place that children get to navigate the waters of challenging situations, without the input of their parents, is at Summer Camp. Children are given significant independence and opportunities to make decisions on the fly – some good, some not so good, but all safe. Supervised by teens and adults who are admired and often listened to better than parents, children grow at Camp by leaps and bounds in a very short time. It’s remarkable how children rise to the occasion and grow like beautiful flowers under the summer sun!