As a mum of two adventurous boys, managing risk taking and teaching decision making is an art unto itself. Everyday, we help our kids weigh up the risks that help them to know where to draw the line. After countless hours of skatepark missions and terrain parks in countries all over the world, I've learned a few things that help them manage their own risk, because one day you won't be there, and they need the tools. I believe every parent knows their kids physical and emotional capabalities and when we can take away our own adult fears, we can let them explore their own boundaries, safely.
We have our own family experience of living with the consequences of adventure sports, with Forrest becoming quadriplegic in 2015. I've had to really let go of my experiences to let them live without fear. The first year after his accident, I had a hard time going to the skate park or watching them ski without being a nervous wreck, but I had a mantra.. "Would I be stopping them if Forrest didn't have the crash?" The answer is usually no.. it was just a freak accident.
So, I had to accept that they need to learn from well educated decision making, 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 on the mountain or skate park, they need to trust the equipment and so do you. Don't buy the stuff too well used or too cheap, middle of the road is a good place for scooters and bikes. The helmet concept should start from day one and you need to wear yours too. So often I see parents who don't wear helmets, it's such a confusing message to send them about the importance of protecting from brain injury. We all need to Walk the Walk...
2. Pre-Game chat...
When we arrive at the park or mountain, we have a quick chat about our Mojo. Are we feeling pumped, a little unsure or just ready to get at it? In trying to build self esteem and to trust in their own gut feelings, they need to pay attention to a few simple things ......Conditions, Equipment, and Mojo.. that overall body feeling you have. It's also worth talking about the dynamic nature of the mountain or skate park and things can change fast and so does the decision making.
3. Progression is Key
My Kids are both fairly athletic and pretty capable, but it all came with time and progression. When ever we arrive at a new skatepark, we look over the park for possible hazards and the level of difficulty and take a slow lap around while they feel out the concrete and structures. Within in 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 or little kids are both folks we want to steer clear of. Occasionally, bad language can get out of hand with older teenagers, but these are good opportunities to talk about how it sounds to them and to not engage.
4. Put some boundaries in place, but you can't decide for them.
I do have a some boundaries and everyones are different. I personally choose to say no inverts, I just think the risk is too high on concrete or snow. That being said, I've spent a lot of great hours in Skate Parks with the kids and have a trunk full of memories to go with them. They often ask me "Mum, do you think I can do it?" My answer is right back at them....., do you feel like you can do it? My confidence does not give them magic skills and they need to feel they are progressed enough to try that skill. They need to own the decision in order to commit to the trick. Obviously it's a judgment call when they are standing at the top of the Large super pipe.. but 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, it can get hot... fast. Focus and skills will rapidly decline if they are sweating too much without water. Winter is a little trickier. It's hard to see or estimate how much water they loose 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, but you need to replace that water. It helps keep away sore muscles and prevent injury.
6. We talk about risk away from the Park and the Mountain.
Risk is a part of everyday life and is a skill we can teach. The core of all decision making for my kids is always ask yourself for the intention or motivation behind the whole deal... Do you feel pressure because someone else is doing it.. do you feel its a skill you can commit to and land when you give it a shot. The ultimate goal is always to walk away from the fun at the end of the day and try to be the level head in the group. By talking about risk in every part of your kids life, they will apply the core lessons when the time counts
What have I learned raising Risk Takers?
So having risk takers, whether they are boys or girls, will raise your game and test your limits, but they will bring such joy. These kids who can take a risk now, will be kids who can grow up to change the worlds perceptions and ideas of really living.
Everyday, my boys challenge my beliefs, my fears and my experiences and show me the wondrous feeling of living without fear. I breathe it in, and it energizes me. I need their kind of brave in my life and know they need mine! We need to be brave and courageous as a crew and believe in our natural talents and skills that bring us adventure.