Risky Business | Seven Days Vermont

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Risky Business 

Published August 1, 2013 at 4:00 a.m.

You have to let kids get hurt sometimes, my friend Meghan told me recently. We were talking on her back porch, while my kids, 5 and 7, played with a 6-year-old neighbor boy in the yard.

The three of them had invented a game. They were standing beneath a tree. From its branches hung two rope swings: one ended in a knot; the other had a small but thick stick on the end. One kid held each swing; the third wielded a plastic bat.

At an agreed upon time, the kids with the ropes would whip them through the air toward the batter, who would swing and try to hit them both. It looked dangerous on many levels.

Be careful! I yelled reflexively at my daughter, Ivy, the youngest of the crew. Watch out for that piece of wood! I hollered, as I saw the stick narrowly miss her head. That's when Meghan, whose boys are a few years older, made her comment.

She gently reminded me that kids need to test their physical limits, brushing up against the edge of what they can and should do. They may get hurt, but they'll be learning how to assess risk — a vital skill once they're out on their own.

I was grateful for the reality check.

After all, I was a daredevil child. I hung upside down from monkey bars, climbed tall trees and jumped my bike over flimsy plywood ramps daily — without a helmet.

I freaked out parents — mine and everyone else's — on a regular basis. I never understood what they were all so upset about. I never got seriously hurt. Didn't they know I knew what I was doing?

Why do I have such a hard time understanding that my kids feel the same way?

So I piped down. Without my warnings, they figured out all by themselves how not to get hurt.

Summer is a good time to remember Meghan's advice. This issue of Kids VT is full of activities for kids that involve various physical challenges, whether it's clambering over rocks at Little River State Park ("Vermont Day-cations") or playing hard on a hot soccer field ("Fit Families").

Of course, adult supervision is sometimes necessary. In this month's "Use Your Words," Nancy Stearns Bercaw relates a chilling tale about a swimming mishap. It serves as a reminder to all parents: When a child is truly in danger, adults need to be ready and able to act.

How do you encourage your kids to take risks safely? Drop us a line and let us know. We love hearing from you.

Cathy Resmer, executive editor

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.

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