4 Guidelines to Prevent Risky Behaviors in Adolescents

To prevent the problem of risky behaviors in adolescents, it's important to generate adult networks that include role models. Learn more.
4 Guidelines to Prevent Risky Behaviors in Adolescents
Sharon Capeluto

Written and verified by the psychologist Sharon Capeluto.

Last update: 15 May, 2023

Risky behaviors in adolescents are a common problem. We’re referring to those voluntary or involuntary actions that are potentially harmful and detrimental to the physical and/or mental health of the person.

During this stage, the search for a new identity, which differs from the familiar one, takes place. Therefore, it’s common for young people to resort to unhealthy behaviors, such as excessive drug or alcohol consumption or unprotected sexual practices. Even with a certain inability to self-regulate, they’re attracted to potentially risky behaviors through which they obtain immediate excitement.

We know that the tendency to engage in risky behaviors is to be expected in adolescents and generally diminishes in adulthood. However, parents and educators are concerned when they witness these risky behaviors.

Here are some guidelines to prevent risky behaviors in adolescents

The family plays a key role in the prevention of risky behaviors in adolescents, as it’s the first protective agent and facilitator of healthy development in adolescents. Adult role models in their lives have a significant influence on the development of habits, the way of relating to others, and self-care practices.

Adolescent health is greatly impacted by the experiences they have in the family and the intimate environment in which they’re inserted. For this reason, it’s essential to take into account different prevention strategies.

A father having a serious conversation with his teenage son.
It’s essential to create spaces of trust and dialogue so that young people aren’t afraid to express what they feel and think.

1. Enabling and promoting dialogue

With poor communication, it’s impossible to prevent risky behaviors in adolescents. Promoting care requires a two-way dialogue in which active listening and assertiveness take center stage. For example, it’s important to talk freely about topics that are sometimes taboo, such as sexuality or drug use.

2. Reflect together

When young people start spending a lot of time away from home, it’s to be expected that they’ll start doing things they didn’t do before. Therefore, they’re likely to party with their group of friends, drink alcohol, or drive at high speeds. When these situations of excess or lack of control occur, adults should take the opportunity to raise awareness about the risks and make it clear that our aim isn’t to battle with them but rather to take care of them.

Listening to your teenagers’ point of view is fundamental so that a rivalry isn’t generated between them and us. On the contrary, we can reflect together on the different situations they’re involved in or witness.

3. Set limits without losing flexibility

It’s clear that there are certain behaviors that we shouldn’t allow under any circumstances, due to the danger they pose. In these cases, setting firm and consistent limits is essential.

However, if we prohibit or punish indiscriminately, the only thing we’ll achieve will be to cut off the channel of communication and trust with them. It’s important that, when appropriate, we adopt a flexible stance based on tolerance and understanding. Adolescents need their parents to tolerate a certain margin of risk and to be available when they want to talk, ask questions, or express doubt.

“This accompaniment through dialogue and not indiscriminate punishment will be key to help them discern and grow responsibly in autonomy.”


Adults should lead by example, as the behaviors observed by young people are just as important messages as the words they receive.

4. Be consistent between what you say and what you do

Our example is what counts when it comes to transmitting values. Although it’s convenient to complement it with words, the behaviors that adolescents observe in their parents become significant messages. Young people need clear rules that are consistent with our actions.

For example, if they see that we consume alcohol in a prudent and responsible manner, they’ll understand that it’s possible to have fun without being careless. In any case, it’s important to explain to them that the adult world is different from the adolescent world and that there are certain things they can do later if they want to.

To prevent risky behavior in adolescents, it’s essential to generate adult networks

Most parents of adolescents are very aware of this concern. Therefore, they’re concerned when they observe a gathering of young people from the outside or are surprised when they learn about the extreme adventures to which they’re exposed. A very valuable tool to contain them is to generate adult networks, which include relatives of other young people, educators, health professionals, and other reference points.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • UNICEF (2021). Adolescentes. Riesgos: ¿por qué los adolescentes se exponen a más riesgos? Disponible en  www.unicef.org/uruguay
  • Rosabal García, E., Romero Muñoz, N., Gaquín Ramírez, K., & Hernández Mérida, A. (2015). Conductas de riesgo en los adolescentes. Revista Cubana de Medicina Militar, 44(2), 218-229. Recuperado en 21 de febrero de 2023, de http://scielo.sld.cu/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0138-65572015000200010&lng=es&tlng=es

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.