If you had told me 10 years ago that I would join my kids whitewater rafting on the Colorado, rock climbing in Alaska, cliff diving in Hawaii or tackling a treetop adventure course 30 feet above the ground, I would have said you were crazy. Me? An outdoors person? But I realized that if I wanted my kids to be creative risk takers and learn how to expand their comfort zones, I would need to lead the way.
You know your kids and their limits. Discuss what you would like to do as a family and why. Get their input and a feel for their comfort zones. Talk about what you will do and how you will do it, and look up articles from others on ways to be safe and have a good time.
If your younger ones are a bit fearful, a little risk taking can give them the confidence they need to push themselves in less than comfortable situations. If they are naturally less fearful, experiencing accomplishments before they become self-conscious middle schoolers will ensure that they do not succumb to self-doubt as they get older, preserve their child-like confidence into their older years. Even older kids can benefit from a little risk taking -- and under your guidance you can model limits, such as what risks are ok and not ok to engage in.
The results? My shy daughter who never wanted people to speak to her and would not voluntarily try something new, just finished a summer studying whales and marine life on board a sailboat that traveled up the Atlantic coast -- without anyone with her that she knew -- something she never would have done had she not experienced 10 years of encouragement and gradual confidence building. And my son who would experience physical and emotional stress when asked to do something he hadn't done before, tried repelling again this summer and this time, found he could do it -- and on a recent weekend got further on a high adventure ropes course than anyone else in the family.
Although I haven't had any real physical training, I've managed to survive these adventures and not look too foolish. Turns out that years of ballet as a young girl gave me the balance and agility to undertake a variety of outdoor activity without too much strain. Even though this 50 year old body does take twice as long to recover from an excursion than it used to, trying new things can be exciting and life altering, even in middle age. What's next.....sky diving??