Fish and chips on the beach; the test match on Boxing Day; a sunny day and a hot seatbelt. These are just a few of the iconic combos of summer in Aotearoa. Yet another iconic summer combo is young people and average decision-making.
Over the summer, there are a myriad of risky situations and social pressures which young people have to navigate, along with a surplus of free time. This means encouraging our teens to use their basic risk-assessment skills becomes even more important than ever. It could just be reminding them to put on sunscreen. It could be slightly more complex risk assessment, like helping them to decide if it’s actually a good idea to jump off the roof of the house into the pool to impress their four weird mates.
There is something about freedom, the sun and a bunch of mates which, together, provide the perfect ingredients for a memorable summer. However, those same ingredients can lead to some young people making the types of decisions that also create a memorable summer, but for all of the wrong reasons.
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So how do you support your kids – especially your teens – to create positive summer memories while also keeping themselves safe?
Run through some “What would you do if…” scenarios
This is a great opportunity to help our teenagers improve their positive decision-making skill set. It’s simple. Every now and again, just ask them some “What would you do if…”’ questions:
- “What would you do if you got invited onto a boat but there weren’t enough life jackets?”
- “What would you do if you didn’t feel right about what your mates were about to do?”
- “What would you do if someone tried to untie your bikini at the pool?”
- “What would you do if the person who was meant to be the sober driver started drinking?”
- “What would you do if you saw your mate standing on the roof of the house about to try and jump into the pool?”
- “What would you do if you went shopping and your bag and your phone got stolen?”
- “What would you do if there was a zombie apocalypse while you were at the beach with your mates?”
The good thing about asking these types of questions – and you can make them as ridiculous as you want – is that it gives your teenager an opportunity to actually imagine themselves in those situations before they happen. This can prepare them for how they might feel and how they could respond.
Encourage them to take ‘safe’ risks
As teenagers get older and begin to re-emerge from the grasp of puberty, they often have a fresh confidence and desire to push themselves to their new limits. If parents don’t embrace this new desire, then young people will still take risks – there is just a high chance that you won’t know about it.
So how could you support your teenager to take safe risks?
Here are some ideas that you could try with your teenagers. Some might be fun, some might be risky, some might be a bit cringy, but all of them would teach your teenager something.
- Build some jumps for their bike in the back yard
- Climb up on the roof on a clear night and stargaze
- Go night swimming
- Give them a driving lesson (preferably in a paddock, a desert or a deserted paddock)
- Jump off a wharf
- Build a hut out of branches and a tarpaulin and attempt to sleep in it
- Go rock climbing
- Buy some plastic from a garden shop and make the world’s biggest slip and slide in your backyard
- Let your teens build an outdoor fire
- Go eeling at night with a spear and a torch (or without a torch if you want up the risk level)
- Help them build a go-kart or fix up a car
- Build a giant swing over a river
- Go tubing down a river (take all the safety stuff of course)
- Take an old office chair to the skatepark and push someone around in it
- Wear onesies in public places
- Learn to surf or body board
- Go mountain biking
- Go for a family mission on electric scooters
- Make them busk to earn money to shout the family dinner
For extra risk points, encourage your teenager to invite their friends to be a part of the shenanigans.
Just remember that you don’t have to spend heaps of money or time planning this stuff. All you need to do is be intentional about helping your teenager to get a bit out of their comfort zone, because taking safe risks is the easiest way to create a positive memorable summer for your family.
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