During the ‘middle years’ young people need to gain skills to protect them from injury or death as older teenagers, says the Chair of the Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee (CYMRC).
Dr Nick Baker, who is also a community paediatrician, was speaking at the ‘Principals and Change’ conference in Nelson on 29 March.
Dr Baker says communities and schools need to create environments of high support and high challenge for those in the middle years – from 5 to 14 years.
“These environments help children and young people gain the skills they need to keep them safe when they are older.
“It’s a window of time when children are moving away from the intense supervision they experienced as babies and pre-schoolers, and becoming more independent,” he says. “Their skills are increasing and it’s a perfect time for their families and schools to help them become more competent at managing risks.”
Dr Baker says about 300 young people aged 15 to 24 die each year from transport accidents, alcohol-related incidents, suicide, and drowning. In the age group of 10 to 14 years there are far fewer deaths, with about 25 young people dying from these causes each year.
“Risk taking is a normal part of young people’s lives. But these figures send a very clear message that the environment in which our young people grow up is far from safe and extra skills are needed.
“Schools play an increasingly important role in supporting young people in the areas of risk taking, relationships and resiliency.
“Young people are most likely to develop these skills if they remain connected to supports such as school and parents, while having opportunities to learn from their mistakes.”