Topic 3 Handling stress and decision-making

  • Skills for handling real-life stress situations, such as suffering the loss of a closed person or a divorce, changing school, or choosing between technical school or high school, etc., include communication skills, coping behaviours, and decision making.
  • Effective communication skills are a vital component in dealing with potentially stressful situations. Many life events are interpersonal (making friends, dating, going out, etc.).
  • If effective communication skills are not developed, the person cannot express its personal feelings (i.e., interest, dissatisfaction, unhappiness, loneliness, frustration). In this way, the person is oppressed and living in a potentially stressful environment.
  • Communication skills activities in the classroom or group setting enhance a “sharing” atmosphere. Activities must be voluntary, and students must be allowed not to participate or quit when not comfortable.
  • For example, engaging students in creative activities or sports or providing them meaningful experiences with nature can provide students with tools for controlling stress in their lives.
  • Crowder (1983) suggested that the most important stress coping skills are physical exercise, proper diet, relaxation, and meditation, talking about one’s problems, setting realistic goals, and self-responsibility. A teacher can choose activities that encourage such initiatives.
  • Is a process that assumes that
    1. There is more than one alternative. If there is only one alternative, there is no need to use a decision-making model.
    2. For decisions there are consequences, which are the result of the outcomes of decisions and vary in   complexity and severity.
    3. For every decision, there is risk involved (Kime, Schlaadt, and Tritsch, 1977).
  • Is the process of selecting an alternative from two or more possible choices.
  • Is a skill that can be learnt after practice.
  • Includes critical & creative thinking skills, problem-solving skills, information gathering skills, skills for generating alternatives, assessing consequences, evaluating information, for example, the media and analytical skills for assessing personal or other risks.
  • Support students to make decisions that are beneficial for them, others in the community and their environment. 
  • Promote positive healthy behaviour while at the same time students are empowered to defend their opinion in front of peer pressure to start tobacco use. 
  • Help individuals reduce the risk of making a bad decision; training youth in decision making can help them be more resilient in facing risk factors for tobacco use, such as life stressors (for example, a death situation, a divorce, a pet loss, deciding for a high school or a technical school, etc.). The stress perhaps can become less if effective decision-making skills are acquired.
  • Offer individuals satisfaction with their decision as they have used a decision-making process and decided for themselves.
  • Brainstorming – making a list of ideas without judging them
  • Weighing the pros and cons – learning how to evaluate the benefits and costs of each idea
  • Selecting the best option
  • Following through – trying a particular option and re-evaluating the decision
  • Provide a tool or model that can be used in a variety of situations and assist students to realise they have control over the types of decisions they make. This can be a useful tool to use with students: Responsible Decision-Making Matrix.
  • Plan carefully and gather accurate information from many sources. 
  • Weigh up the pros and cons including possible consequences for themselves and others. 
  • Identify factors that influence options and choices before an accurate assessment of the situation can be made. 
  • Allow several options to be considered.
  • Explore feelings and values associated with the various options and plan to take responsibility for their actions – before a choice is made. 
  • Re-evaluate the choice and adapt to new situations. 
  • Develop and practise, before the assertion, as it is critical to have made an informed decision before asserting the choice.

1.You and your friend have just watched a movie. You are leaving the cinema and notice a group of popular students from your school who are all smoking. You stop to greet, and you and your friend are offered to smoke cigarettes.

  • How would you feel in such a situation?
  • Is there a problem here?
  • Which are your options for solving the problem?
  • What are the consequences/risks if you decide to smoke? 
  • What would you gain if you decide not to smoke?
  • You have decided not to smoke and your friend to smoke. How could you reply to these children?

2.Two friends tell you that they smoke because it helps reduce their appetite. You are not sure if this is true because some other friends say that this does not work. However, you wish to lose weight before the beach party comes up.

  • What is the actual problem here?
  • Which are the options you have for solving the problem?
  • What are the pros and cons of each decision?

Remember that a great way to work on these scenarios with your students is the Responsible Decision-Making Matrix (RDMM). When working with RDMM: 

  • Introduce the tool as a framework for helping them make the best possible decisions in their everyday lives.
  • Normalise the use of the tool for all students in your class by introducing it as a universal strategy and not a stigma.
  • Let them know that the decision matrix can be applied to many different types of decisions and encourage them to use it both at home and in the classroom when they wish to make a decision.
  • Use various scenarios that students either have encountered or are most likely to encounter (e.g., choosing between the fun thing and the right thing, peer pressure, etc.). It’s important to present authentic scenarios here and you can also use role-playing (we will see examples in the next topic).
  • Take time to explain the point system for weighing the pros and cons (positive numbers for pros and negative ones for cons) by paying close attention to the rules of adding and subtracting positive and negative numbers, especially for younger children. Using a number line or real objects can be particularly helpful with early elementary students, for them to practice adding and subtracting with negative numbers.
  • Give students time and space to use the tool.
  • Incorporate reflection as part of the decision-making process. Having them list the pros and cons and talk through possible outcomes can be very helpful in this step.


Think on a habit you want to quit as an adult and use the RDMM to decide on the best option for you.