Teaching Kids to Manage Risk
As adults, we are expected to manage risk. There are forms to fill out and guidelines we must adhere to. Not only this, we also manage risk on a daily basis; when we drive, when we go out at night, when we travel to unknown places. However, when were we taught to manage risk?
In primary schools these days, playgrounds are becoming lower, and safer. There are less risks around for our children today than ever before. They rarely go out by themselves to play, or to run to the store to get milk. These were things many of us adults did in our youth, but have deemed to unsafe for our own children.
In teaching gymnastics, we are aware that risks for children these days are limited, but risk management is a skill that children need to develop before becoming adults. We aim to gently introduce risk and risk management in our gymnastics sessions in a few different ways. We like to provide “challenge by choice.” Students can choose at which level they would like to perform the skill. They get to manage what they are capable of and what is safe for them.
We also provide them with an environment they may not be comfortable with; for example, the high beam. Completing this activity needs either a request for help, careful navigation, observing another student going first, or all three of these things. Children need to think autonomously about how they will proceed with the challenge in front of them, and how to do that safely. They learn quickly that a silly or unsafe landing can hurt.
Lastly, during some our lessons we perform partner balances. These rely on two or more people working together to keep themselves and each other safe. They need to work out how the balance in going to work, what happens if it goes wrong and how to add more people it the balance keeping it safe. Although no serious injury would occur in these balances, falling on the carpet can be a little scary and a bit of a shock. The students are expected to manage this risk themselves and the generally learn very quickly how to stay safe and manage the risks.