Taking risks growing up


Did you know that of the top 10 children’s films, not one doesn’t involve an adventure? It doesn’t matter if you’re a fish or a puppet, coming of age is all about getting up, getting out, and exploring. That’s because growing up is all about discovery: what are the new boundaries, how far can you push the limits? Adventure and exploration help us test these new possibilities. When many of us think nostalgically back to our childhoods, fond memories of adventures with friends, climbing trees, or cheating at Monopoly come flooding back. And any youth worker (or neurologist) could tell you that these are teaching moments. Don’t climb dead trees, don’t cheat. Our brains are learning how to take risks – and how to work out what’s too risky. Studies (and life) show that our teenage years are marked by the heightened enjoyment of risky behaviour as we seek out ways to test childhood boundaries and old rules. We will never enjoy taking risks more as we work out a whole new world, and where we need to take more care. For young people living in Angell Town, opportunities to get out and explore in a safe yet challenging way are not there. With stories of violent stabbings and police spot checks coming from every corner, parents are rightly cautious about allowing their children the freedom to explore their neighbourhood and city. Without healthy risks, we see young people turning to unhealthy ones: taking drugs and drinking, getting involved in crime and antisocial behaviour, and running errands for gang members. These unacceptable risks are having lifelong impacts. At CHIPS, we don’t like this pattern of risk-taking. We’re taking young people from the estate on fortnightly minibus trips to do something that’s just a little bit risky and challenging. Young people plan the trips, which develops organisational and leadership skills, with CHIPS simply facilitating the trip. From ice skating to trampolining, these are opportunities for young people to let their guard down and enjoy themselves. A chance to have fun, and also to have conversations – with young people and deepening their relationships with each other, and us. We don’t want to see broken legs – of course – but these trips are a brilliant opportunity to see young people exploring – and exhilarated.