As a mum of three adventurous kids, managing risk, and teaching decision-making is an art some days I feel like I'm going grey. Sharing tips for your little risk-takers helps us parents cope with their wild side. Every day, we help our kids weigh up the risks that help them know where to draw the line. After countless: skatepark missions; terrain parks; backcountry adventures and world adventures, I've learned a few things that help them manage their own risk. One day you won't be there, and they will need these tools. I believe every parent knows their kid's physical and emotional capabilities. When we take away our adult fears, we can let them safely explore their boundaries.
I have my own family experiences of living with the consequences of adventure sports. Would I be stopping them if we had worked up to this level through experience and guidance? The answer is no. As a parent, I have to accept that they need to learn from experience. I can't stop them, so let's teach them.
1. The Right Equipment for the job.
The right equipment for the sport is critical. If they are going to take risks in the mountains or the skate park, they need to trust their equipment, and so do you. Don't buy the stuff too well used or too cheap. The middle of the road is a good place for any equipment, like scooters, bikes, or skis.
Essential Personal Protective Equipment should be purchased new or as close to new as possible, this is a must for me. The helmet concept should start from day one and you need to wear yours too. Too often I see parents who don't wear helmets. It's such a confusing message about the importance of protection from brain injury. We all need to “Walk the Walk”.
2. Pre-Adventure chat...
When we arrive at the park or head off into the mountains, we have a quick chat about our Mojo. Are we feeling pumped? A little unsure? Or just ready to get at it? This chat helps build esteem and helps them to trust in their gut feelings. They need to pay attention to a few simple things: Outdoor Conditions; Equipment; and their Mojo (their overall personal confidence). It's also worth talking about the dynamic nature of the mountain or skate park because things can change fast and so does the decision-making process, the bigger the adventure the bigger the conversation.
3. Progression is Key
My kids are fairly athletic and pretty capable. But it all came with time and progression. Whenever we arrive at a new skatepark, ski hill, or bike trail, we assess for possible hazards and level of difficulty. We take a slower warm-up lap, a shorter session, and always stop and check out a jump or sections of a trail before riding. We allow them to “feel it out”. Within a few minutes, they are finding their groove and having fun. On a side note: I ask them to scope out the folks around them. Aggressive or strange adults and younger kids are all folks we want to respect and maybe steer clear of. Occasionally, bad language can get out of hand with older teenagers on the ski hill or skate park. These are good opportunities to talk to your kids about how awful and disrespectful it sounds. Encourage them not to engage.
4. Put some boundaries in place (but you can't decide for them)
I do have some boundaries and everyone will be different. I personally choose to say no to inverts. I just think the risk is too high on concrete or snow. I've spent a lot of great hours in Skate Parks with the kids and I have a heart full of memories. The kids often ask me, "Mum, do you think I can do it?" My answer is right back at them: How does your body feel? Do you feel like you can do it? Can I spot you? My confidence does not give them magical skills and they need to feel they are progressed enough to try that skill. They need to use their own decisions to commit to the trick. It's a judgment call when they are standing at the top of the LARGE SUPER PIPE!!!! .... You get my drift.
5. Hydrate the little Monkeys
In summer, it seems like you could bring 100 gallons of water and it wouldn't be enough. When the summer heat hits the concrete or trail, it can get hot fast. Focus and skill will rapidly decline if they are sweating too much and dehydrating. Winter is a bit trickier. It's harder to estimate how much water they lose when they sweat under many layers. Temptation says let them have a hot chocolate because it's cold out. BUT, not before a bunch of water. Base layers are used to keep the sweat away by wicking away moisture. You need to replace that moisture. Hydrating helps prevent sore muscles and injuries.
6. Talk about risks away from the Park and the Mountain.
Risk is a part of everyday life and risk management is a skill we can teach. The core of all decision-making for my kids is always asking yourself for the intention or motivation behind the activity or task. Do you feel pressure because someone else is doing it? Do you feel you have the skill to commit to and safely land/complete the task/trick? The ultimate goal is to always walk away from the fun at the end of the day. It’s also important to strive to be a level-headed leader in a group. Talking about and teaching risk management in every part of your kid’s life will help them apply those core lessons when the time permits.
What have I learned about raising Risk-Takers?
So, you have risk-takers? Whether they are boys or girls, they will raise your game, and your heart rate and test your limits. They will also bring you such pride and joy. The kids who take risks now will be the people who grow up to change the world’s perceptions about ‘really living’.
Every day, my kids challenge my beliefs, my fears, and my experience. They show me the wondrous feeling of living fearlessly. I breathe it in and it energizes me. I need that kind of brave in my life and I know they need mine. We need to be brave as a family, group, and crew. We need to believe in our natural talents and skills that bring us our adventures. . . . Venture on brave kids and parents!