The term “risk-taking” often has negative connotations that lead parents to think of harmful risks children take, like experimenting with alcohol or other dangerous behaviors. But not all risks are bad for children. In fact, taking risks can be a healthy way for your growing child to test boundaries, explore his expanding independence, and learn more about himself. Taking risks is a part of growing up. It is how children learn more about themselves and learn boundaries, both physical and emotional. It is important for your child to have safe ways to take risks rather than leaving it up to chance or letting his peers decide. At this late elementary age, risks can be as simple as speaking up in class or as difficult as asking a new friend to sit together at lunch. Every child assesses risks differently and no one knows your child better than you do. You likely already know how big a risk-taker your child is and can promote his risk-taking or rein him in where need be.
Allow your child opportunities to take risks. You can help develop your child’s healthy risk-taking by allowing her to have more responsibility as she ages. For example, some children this age can walk home from school unsupervised,or be left home with siblings after school and before you get home from work. The first time your child has those experiences feels risky. It is a new experience, and she has the opportunity to learn she is capable of walking home alone or staying at home with her siblings.
As much as you may be uncomfortable, try to allow your child to take the risks and fall down every now and then. Every parent wants to protect children from harm at all costs, but some physical risks are worth exploring. Some kids are more adventurous than others and a day at the park might include jumping off rocks or trying to climb trees. As much as you may be uncomfortable, try to allow your child to take the risks and fall down every now and then. Letting your child test her own boundaries and strengths will help build her confidence and help her understand what she’s capable of.
Encourage your child to try new activities and be sure to talk with her if she’s nervous or unsure of the new activity. A new activity could simply mean making new friends when you’re in different social situations. For example, if your family is at the park or another public area, encourage your child to talk to the other children there instead of just sticking with the friends or siblings she came with. For some children making new friends is easy, while for others it can be more difficult. In either case, making a new friend is always a risk for kids, and it can be a great way for your child to develop her social skills as well.