So how do we engage their sense of adventure? How do we encourage their inner predisposition to bravery? How do we cultivate their awareness of risk without diminishing the value of taking on that very same risk? Many of the answers to these questions will seem simple.
We talk about what's happened, what might happen, and what is happening. Often having a conversation around possible outcomes or taking time to process an event as a group is all children, or anyone for that matter, need to feel ownership and control over a situation. Talking goes a long way in encouraging informed risk-taking. Often after something goes awry or goes especially awesome we debrief about it at circle time. We talk about what worked and what didn't work. The children reflect on how the experience felt to them and what they might have done differently or what they feel especially proud of having done. These builds connections between the past, the present, and the future in a real and monumental way. It helps to create an understanding of causation and the ability to imagine what ifs.
We build environments that allow for exploration and adventure but are also physically safe. The environment goes a long way in helping children feel safe to explore and take risks. When you work somewhere that you feel trusted and competent in what you do each day, you are more likely to take on risks or try something new. The same is true for children. When their needs for consistency, safety, and basic necessities are met they are able to feel confident in taking calculated risks.
We allow space for children to take risks and be an active participant in their lives. Recently I was spending time with a family member of mine. I watched as she fretted over every decision she made- right down to deciding which drink to get at the store. I had flashbacks to my own days of being too afraid to make the simplest of decisions. When we feel powerless and only passively receive the outcomes of our lives, we are less likely to take risks. Picking out our own drink at a store may seem like an everyday task for most of us, but for a child this is the beginning of self advocacy, the birth of risk, and the essence of understanding the outcomes that come from even the smallest decisions we make. By giving children space to make their own decisions- small and large- and engage actively in their own lives we are encouraging them to be brave, to take risks, and to find out what happens next.
We simply listen and reflect as children express how they feel. Emotions are a huge, huge burden at times. Whether we feel excited, happy, sad, or frantic- it's a big feeling. Being extraordinarily happy is often just as scary as being exceptionally sad. The moment this clicked for me was an eye opener in how I approached people. Often when someone is sad I want to comfort. When someone is happy I want to join in and celebrate. While both of these are wonderful reactions, the most important thing to do first is to listen, to hear, to be present, and to reflect. Giving the other person time to honor their own emotions before you join in can go a long way in building trust as well as encouraging bravery and risk. Risk is much easier to take on when we feel cemented in the relationships that exist in our lives.
Of course, there are many other ways to encourage risk and build awareness around calculated risk, but I wanted to share these four with you for now. What about in your own households? In you personal lives? Throughout your work day? What enables you to feel confident in taking on risk?