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Smart teens practice healthy risk-taking

October 6, 2015 0 Comments

teesns and healthy risk taking

When parents and authority figures imagine the risks taken by teenagers, they will typically picture the destructive and dangerous conduct youth are capable of. Although teens are plagued by a stigma of making ill-informed and impulsive decisions, there is a variety of healthy risks that many adolescents choose to pursue on a daily basis.

In a 2010 NPR interview with Lynn Ponton, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at UC San Francisco and Laurence Steinberg, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia, the two experts divulged some key information on the subject. When asked about what behaviors belong under the classification of healthy risk-taking, Dr. Steinberg listed common extracurricular activities including sports, creative endeavors like art or theater, or volunteering. The important part is that the action satisfies an adolescent’s desire to push his or her own boundaries while still feeling like he or she is in familiar territory.

In contrast, unhealthy risks consist of more life-threatening choices such as driving recklessly, having unprotected sex and using drugs or alcohol according to Dr. Steinberg. In terms of preventing negatively impactful risks and promoting positive alternatives, both he and Dr. Ponton agreed that teens develop risk-taking patterns early and often look to peers and parents to model their behavior. Also, the goal should not be to suppress risk-taking, but to direct youth to productive risks.

The Sutter Health Palo Alto Medical Foundation also categorized healthy and unhealthy practices in regards to risk. Healthy boundary testing encompasses the follow strategies:

As told by Dr. Ponton, adolescents are biologically programmed to take risks and with good reason. In order to grow from past mistakes and improve skills for their future roles in adulthood, teenagers need to push themselves. In essence, adolescence is a period defined by a cycle of attempting, failing and eventually accomplishing a growing set of goals. White River Academy is a school for adolescent males struggling with mental health disorders, behavioral issues, substance abuse or dual diagnosis. Call our 24/7 hotline today at 866-300-0616 to be connected with a professional.

Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer

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