Why is my kid engaging in risky behavior?

Sometimes the young person commits dangerous acts, taking excessive risks.

This type of behavior, called “risky behavior,” cannot be trivialized or ignored by adults without dramatizing the situation or wanting to control everything. Risky behavior is behavior that, by its very nature, can endanger an adolescent’s life or physical integrity without the adolescent having a genuine desire to commit suicide.

Every teen needs to take risks and face death.

They need rituals of passage to leave childhood and enter the world of adults. In our societies, adults no longer organize such rituals into groups. Therefore, it is the teenagers who must invent them, with the risk of putting the danger bar very (too) high! While his life is clearly in danger, the young person denies the risk he takes in such circumstances. Dangerous driving is often done in groups, but not necessarily, and can occur in isolation or even wandering (running away).


For group members

With their “peers,” the adolescent looks for these dangerous experiences to belong to a group and to increase or defend their self-esteem. Examples of risky behaviors: extreme sports; car or motorcycle rallies; traffic accidents; escapes; overdoses; repeated alcohol consumption; unprotected sex; Russian roulette games and scarves (a game of self-strangulation that done alone or with others), etc.

Motorcycle or car races, sporting achievements, alcohol competitions, group sex or criminal acts often take on this meaning. Many teenagers feel invincible taking risks in a group: “together, nothing can happen to us, together, differences, death, the future does not exist.” Extreme sensations become a drug and lead to an addiction to dangerous driving. Also, the consumption of alcohol and drugs is frequent: it contributes to the disinhibition and the loss of the sensation of danger and allows to “stop worrying about it.”


Acting and defining limits

Risky behaviors should be taken very seriously, especially when the teen shows signs of fragility. Never underestimate the intense anxiety the teen experiences during dangerous driving or the traumatic impact it has on him or her, beyond the trivialization and excitement it seems to show.

These dangerous behaviors have much in common with adolescents who attempt suicide. However, adults don’t always realize how vulnerable their children are! Parents need to take a stand, place limits on what they consider dangerous and unacceptable. This won’t necessarily prevent them from taking risks in their absence, but these limits will support the teenager so that he can, in plenty of time, say to himself: “Beyond that limit of danger, I won’t go, even if my friends push me there and call me a coward!”.