picture of a confident child taking healthy risk

92% of Brits say children’s healthy risk taking is crucial to boosting self-confidence

  • 80% of 18-24s and 69% of 25-35s described themselves as risk takers

  • 87% wished they would take more risks

  • 51% of Brits stop relying on parents/carers to take risks by 16 years

Growing up, many of us have heard our parents say don’t go there, don't do this or you aren’t old enough to do that yet. But how do these phrases in childhood impact our ability to take risks or to become confident adults? According to new research conducted by British Exploring Society (BES), young people who have been given the chance to take healthy risks experience a positive impact on their personal and professional growth later in life.

Being a healthy risk taker not only allows young people to become more confident (44%) as they get older, but also to become more spontaneous (34%), have more enriched life experiences (33%) and become psychologically stronger (30%).

The acclaimed designer and entrepreneur, Henry Holland agrees: “I’ve learnt and earned my way through taking risks, and approaching things in a way that feels right to me.  You need to be confident.  For every career decision that I have made and business I’ve run – I’ve learnt on the job. No specific training or education and I’ve always considered that a blessing. Why? Nobody ever told me how something should be done, and equally they have never told me how something shouldn’t be done!   

“Working in creative fields you can over think things and get frozen with indecision.  You have to be brave, believe in yourself, put yourself out there, and say – I think this is great - and that’s when you can achieve great things, “added Holland.

 The research from BES also shows that young people associate healthy risk taking with bravery (49%), confidence (53%), increased physical and psychological wellbeing (35%), and being able to deal with challenging situations (51%). These are all essential skills for a happy and successful adult life. However, when surveyed, young people don’t think they are learning these key skills until they are adults, with the average age being 21.

CEO of British Exploring Society Honor Wilson-Fletcher MBE commented: ‘Since I’ve been at British Exploring Society, I’ve noticed lasting changes in resilience and risk appetite in young people and their families. We commissioned research to find out whether our experience reflected a national picture because it’s our job is to prepare young people with the confidence and self-belief to live happy adult lives.’’

Nearly one-third (32%) highlight that they start to face challenges, where they feel as though they might fail and/or struggle with trying new things that challenge them between the ages of 16 and 20. This is also the age where over half (51%) said they stopped relying on their parents/carers and started taking risks for themselves.

Naomi Hulston, CEO of Catch-22, a non-profit dedicated to designing and delivering services that build resilience and aspiration in people and communities agrees that early healthy risk taking, and pushing children out of their comfort zone is absolutely key.  

Hulston says: “Adult life at times is often fraught with risk. We are expected to embark on new and challenging experiences, make difficult decisions, respond to unexpected circumstances whilst being seen as confident, healthy and self-sufficient. It is crucial for children to hear positive messages about risks and be supported to embrace risks as this is the only way they learn to push themselves and get to know their boundaries whilst also building confidence.

Young people who have been given the chance to experience healthy risk understand its benefits and want more of it. While 43% said they know when to take risks, 35% said there are some situations where they know when it is ok to take a risk – but there are still lots of occasions when they say they don’t know whether it is wise or not.

Despite knowing the importance of experiencing healthy risks, it is only natural for parents and carers to want to protect their children. Quite often they find themselves wrestling with their own fears and uncertainties, which is why letting go of the reins can be difficult and unknowingly, they may pass their apprehensions onto their children by encouraging a cautious and risk-averse mindset. This is reflected in the research as three-quarters (75%) of those surveyed feel that parents’/carers' anxieties about risk taking can impact their risk-taking abilities.

Organisations like British Exploring Society give young adults access to programmes that promote healthy risk taking under the care of experts while reassuring parents that their children will be protected. Lauren, parent to Emin, who has joined one of these expeditions, shares her experience as a parent.

Lauren says, “When Emin expressed an interest in going on an expedition with British Exploring Society, I experienced a rollercoaster of emotions from nervousness to hesitancy to anxiety and finally, excitement. While it was painful being away from my son with limited communication, our occasional conversations really helped us to know that all was well on the expedition. It certainly wasn’t easy, but it also gave me time and space to really appreciate what’s important. Since Emin’s return, I can see his inner resilience shining through and manifesting itself in the day-to-day challenges of normal life.”

With programmes such as British Exploring Society’s expeditions, young adults, whatever their background, can experience and gain crucial life skills and return to daily life with increased self-belief, a dynamic peer support group and the determination and ability to make the most of their future.

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