I shudder every time I think of all the things I have done as a teenager. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I still did it anyway. I certainly knew there were consequences to my impulsive decisions, but I was also willing to live with those consequences.. My logic then was, The biggest disadvantage being born is that you are going to die.. everyone will die one day, so what is the big deal if whatever I was going to do might end up killing me? I think the most risks I took were between the age of 18 and 20. Around 21, the things that gave me so much excitement ceased to interest me and I found myself thinking of consequences before I did something.
Since apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, I was very mindful about my children following the exact path I took. I read every research paper about Adolescent risk taking behaviour. There has to be a reason why mortality and morbidity rate are exceptionally high in the adolescent age group, despite kids in that age are in their healthiest state of development.
One of the most interesting paper I read was this
Evidence clearly points to the delayed gratification of prefrontal cortex in the adolescent brain , the area responsible for making choices, impulse control etc.
When my son was about 6, I noticed that he loved speeding in the ice rink. I watched the instructor telling him over and over about how dangerous it was and he still did it. Even after he completed the full Skate Canada program, I still put him back for skating lessons. It was very expensive and his instructors were really puzzled as to why I registered him again and again when he had already completed the program. My reasoning was simple, my son seemed to have an affinity for impulsive behaviour compared to his peers of the same age and I wanted him to be safe and be able to enjoy the risks..I would rather he did it in a skating arena than behind the wheel of a car I knew there will be day he will be bored with speeding. where it doesn’t really excite him anymore. .. It did. If I am not mistaken it took almost 9 months.. and he started talking to the kids in group and skated alongside. I stopped the lessons soon after that.
Yaya on the other hand was very rational till she was 16. While her brother was speeding around the skating arena, she was calm and composed. She even went for figure skating..
When Yaya was in grade 12, her school organized safe driving classes for the kids, they also organized for people who ended up in Wheel chairs after accidents to come and talk to the kids about risk taking.. especially when driving. She lost two school mates and three former students (who were in first year Uni) to accidents when she was in high school. So it is not that she isn’t aware of the risks. She knows the risks.. but so long as her brain hasn’t developed, she is going to make impulsive decisions and take risks..
Like every parent of a teenager, I am terrified of all that can go wrong. I can tell my children over and over of all the dangers out there..I also know if it wasn’t for some guardian angel somewhere, I wouldn’t have survived my teenage years and writing this post today..
So I wait.. hoping that my children will survive without harming themselves and others.. because as a parent, that is the only thing I am left with.. hope..