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Risk Taking Behaviors

What are risk taking behaviors?

Risk taking behaviors are less common, but more concerning, behaviors sometimes seen in kids and teens.  These behaviors include anything that could lead to significant harm to the youth or others. While some exploration is typical at this age, these behaviors may be a sign of deeper problems, or require more or different parenting skills to manage than less severe behaviors.

What are some examples of risk taking behaviors?

  • Sneaking out of the house or running away
  • Use of alcohol or drugs
  • Speeding, reckless driving, or mis-using a car (i.e., pulling a sled)
  • Sexual acting out (multiple partners, unprotected sex)
  • Intentional self-harm (i.e., cutting, burning, or branding the skin)
  • Suicidal actions or attempts (i.e., taking pills, experimenting with choking)
  • Suicidal communication (threats, pacts, texts to peers)
  • Threatening to hurt parents, peers, or authority figures

How are risk taking behaviors treated?

These behaviors are often related to other issues, such as depression, impulsivity, being unable to meet needs any other way, or dissatisfaction with different areas of the youth’s life.  It may be helpful to address those deeper issues, as well as to come up with a way to manage the risk taking behaviors themselves.  A mental health therapist or a psychologist can address both, by teaching healthy emotional expression, coping skills, problem-solving skills, and other strategies to both the youth and parent(s).

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