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Understanding Risk Taking & Peer Pressure in Adolescents

Welcome to the second episode of Connecting the Dots, a three-part podcast series that aims to help parents and their adolescent / teenage children to understand and address some of the most pressing issues they face both at home and in society today. The theme or title of today’s podcast, Understanding Risk Taking & Peer Pressure in Adolescents, is a natural progression from the 1st podcast where we looked at body image and self-esteem.

I’m absolutely delighted to have Stuart Wilson from Zest Life back in the chair with me and I have to say, Stuart’s input is invaluable. My message to parents and adolescents: please tune in, you will be so much the better for it. We may not have all the answers but oftentimes, knowing how to identify the problem and being able to handle it in the most appropriate and effective way is the critical part.

Also, if you think you are the only parent / adolescent facing these challenges. Rest assured; you are not. There are communities out there with support frameworks to help you. Remember…..

You are not alone.

So, to the topic at hand – understanding risk taking & peer pressure in adolescents.

Risk taking is actually part of the process of developing as a young person.

Before we get to risk taking, we need to spend some time looking at the various development stages from baby through to adulthood. As toddlers, kids are embedded. That is, they are utterly dependent on their mother and father for everything. At the age of 5 or 6 when they start school, they are starting to disembed a little. The disembedding is an entirely natural process where the child is learning how to decide for themselves and make their own choices, be it friends or activities that they prefer. This is normal behaviour and it’s good, though naturally, for some parents it can be emotionally challenging.

This disembedding stage lasts a while and leads into the interiority stage. Typically, this is around the first year in secondary school. This is where the adolescents begin to define their own friendships and groups. It’s all about fitting in and belonging.

This interiority stage lasts for 5/6 years from which they progress to the integrated stage, where they feel they’ve landed, kind of know who they are and perhaps, know what they want to do with their future.

Then they launch into adulthood. Depending on how embedding, interiority and integrated went, this has a defined impact on whether the launch into adulthood is a good one or a bad one.

Adults can get trapped in the interiority stage and addressing that issue requires assistance.


Adolescents want to speed through interiority. They will try to fit in with various groups and to do so, may engage in risk taking or activities deemed appropriate by the group – alcohol, vaping, sexual encounters.

So, they will take risks and it’s important to note that risk taking is normal. It’s good that they are in this state but as parents / adults we have to be careful of the risks we allow them to take.

You are not alone.

What can we do that will help our children move safely through the interiority stage where risk taking is part of that life?

Talk. Talk. Talk.

As obvious as it may seem, talking is the most important thing you can do.

Parents can often feel that their children don’t want anything to do with them during the interiority stage. The opposite is the case and you bridge this by bidding. Bid for their time by continually offering your time to listen and to help. To be there. Be consistent and keep bidding.

You will love your children as you were loved yourself when you were a child – hugging and/or verbal affirmation. But that may not be their language. We need to reach them appropriately, not the way we way but the way they need.

If we make the bid but there is no response, remember they are still hearing you.

You are not alone.

There are more useful takeaways in the Understanding Risk Taking & Peer Pressure in Adolescents podcast below. Just click the play button.


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