Over the Chinese New Year weekend, most of Singapore was probably following the Tanjong Pagar accident. As a parent of 2 young children, the accident left echoes of fear within my heart.
Reading this post by Michael Han – How do you protect your child from the randomness of life? I was encouraged to think about how I would answer this.
Risk assessment and management processes prompt us to prepare for randomness. The most dangerous risks lie in the unknown unknowns or sometimes known as “Acts of God”. Not because it is dangerous (it could be though), but because it’s probably unimaginable. Imagine a surgical mask being blown by wind, catches some rocks in the mask, hits the window of a moving car on the driver’s side, causing the driver to get a shock and swerve the car onto the pavement, knocking down an unsuspecting person. Who would have known? We can’t do anything about those.
The greatest individual risk lies in the mentality “it will never happen to me” and therefore do nothing to safeguard against this possibility.
Yet in safeguarding, how much do we safeguard against? To the point of paralysis, cowering in fear at every living moment? What’s an acceptable threshold?
I doubt we can put a number to it. Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes. So should we safeguard against these 20%? I definitely don’t feel safe keeping myself open to the remaining 20% risk.
I know of some people who live a life of absolute faith, 100% faith, they prepare for almost nothing and yet don’t suffer the debilitating effects of fear. I believe this is a call reserved for an elect few or perhaps ignorant few. Only a test of faith would distinguish the difference between faith and ignorance.
For a faith centred individual, there’s also one thing to safeguard against, the lost of faith and spirituality.
If I had 100% faith and something happened and I wasn’t prepared for it, would it lead to a decimation of faith? If so, I would fall into the ranks of the ignorant and my life beyond would be drenched with a loss of hope and resentment against divinity.
It’s hard to put a number to how much to prepare, but I think the viewpoint of faith might be a good start. I think my threshold of risk would be an amount which I’m comfortable to leave in the domain of faith. I would assess the known unknowns, consider the highly improbable and ask if I’m willing to say that if it happens, it’s God will and I would not retreat into resentment. It’s a personal threshold that each person will have to grapple with then align with the family’s threshold.
I started with the suggestion of preparing my child for a life of randomness and have hinted nothing of it yet, because it was necessary to begin with an individual threshold of acceptance first then align it with the family’s. This would guard us against the most extreme scenarios and build in us inner reserves to weather that storm and emerge stronger together (see what I did there?).
Here are 3 things I think we can do to prepare for a life of randomness:
#1 Facilitate Risk Awareness
Plan to mitigate against life-endangering risks or risks that threaten the future quality of living, but deliberately ignore low-threat risks that have shorten term impact. This gives room for parents to discuss the consequences, raise awareness that risks to do exist. I would prevent my child from dipping his hand in a cup of hot boiling water, but I’d let him touch the cup and get burnt. His reflex action would do the job.
This would create an opportunity for parents to talk about cause and effect – heat can cause pain.
In doing so, we encourage the most dangerous mentality “it would never happen to me” simply because their life experiences would never have suggested that risks do exist.
#2 Facilitate Risk Management
We can do this by questioning. I read a post recently that suggested to ask, don’t tell. We can use questions to help a child process until they figure out what they need to do.
“If you run, what might happen?”
“If you fall down, what could happen to your leg?”
“If it’s pain, do you think we can go to the playground the next day?”
“So what can you do?”
But at least we start cultivating a risk management mindset. And that’s what truly matters. I think this approach might be suitable for children aged 3 onwards. My son is approaching 3 and I find it easier to ask sequential questions as compared to a year ago.
#3 Facilitate Risk Recovery
What happens after something happens? Do we allow its effects to scar us for life? We’ll need to manage the residual effect before it develops into a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and leave footprints for fear to follow us.
To look inward is to ask the child and ourselves, how do we feel about what happened. How has it affected us mentally, emotionally and spiritually? I believe this can be done from age 3 onwards.
To look backward is to discuss what actually happened, what led to it and how it could be avoided.
Looking forward helps to restore balance and inspire hope. We can do this by dialoguing about what was good, what we are still grateful for and how we can continue to enjoy even in the face of risks (by having appropriate risk management measures in place).
We can never avoid risks. And not taking risks would be the biggest risk because it cultivates unpreparedness.