For people who seek thrilling adventures, raising a child also raises an interesting dilemma: Should you encourage your child to embrace adventure?

Don’t let anyone fool you – when you become a parent, everything changes.  Your personal habits, your economic behaviors and how you spend every waking minute all get re-prioritized.  Raising, teaching and protecting your child become paramount.

Jim and Jess (age 3) in the Colorado mountains

Jim and Jess (age 3) in the Colorado mountains

As outdoor-loving people, when my wife and I had two children, we wanted to teach them to enjoy nature so we took them sledding, skiing and hiking. We chose low-risk activities in safe areas and prepared carefully to make sure we did not put our offspring in danger.  But, after all that time spent outdoors, a funny thing happened: our kids became adventurous too.

Our daughter Jessica is now 20-years old.  Over the last five years, she and I have climbed some together and hiked a few 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado.  For the last five months Jess has been attending Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa. While completing her studies there, Jess also:

  • Traveled through remote areas.
  • Bungee jumped off a bridge that was 709 feet above the ground.
  • Went cage diving with great white sharks.

(Her mother was not happy about that last one!)

In ten days, I will be joining Jess in Africa and together we will try climbing Kilimanjaro. While not a technical ascent requiring ropes or climbing gear, the roof of Africa is 19,341 feet tall.  The atmosphere on top is less than half as thick than at sea level, so the low oxygen makes forcing your body upward a grueling test of will and endurance.

So the question I’m pondering is: How much of life’s adventures do you encourage your children to chase?

  • Do you want them to hike, or to climb to high altitude?
  • Should they travel the world, or stay in their home town?
  • How much risk and adventure is appropriate?
On the summit of Mount Evans (14,265 feet) in 2013

On the summit of Mount Evans (14,265 feet) in 2013

Each parent must balance between protecting their kids, and giving them wings. Parents do not want to see their children get hurt, but we know that young people must struggle some and maybe get bruised so as to become resilient for the adventures, and misadventures, that life will surely bring them.

Personally, I want my kids to have confidence and curiosity. I want them to have the desire, commitment and vitality to live an invigorating life.

As I prepare to accompany my daughter on this Kilimanjaro journey, I welcome your input: How can we best encourage our children to embrace life’s adventures?

Over the next few weeks, I will share what Kilimanjaro teaches us.


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