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You can offer your students the opportunity to practice the important job of responsible decision-making. This blog will offer a process your students can use to help them choose effectively, even when faced with problems, and handling new situations.

Risk analysis is a process that can be used to look at factors that may make it harder to reach one’s goals, and explore what can be done to counteract these factors. You can help students use this process, looking at the possible risks of potential choices, to help them determine whether or not to make them.

There are different kinds of risks we may encounter when making choices, not all of which are bad. Sometimes, choices may seem easy to make at first glance. These choices may be made because others around us are making them; out of habit, or for the sake of expedience – they do not involve any waiting or sacrificing. However, they may not be the most responsible or effective choices to make.

It can be risky not making the easiest choices. It can be risky making a choice that is different than others are making, getting out of one’s comfort zone to change a habit, waiting, or sacrificing. However, these kinds of risks are potentially worth taking.

There are some criteria that can be used in order to decide if a risk is worth taking. Students can determine whether or not the risk is safe; whether or not it has the likelihood of leading to a positive outcome for them and those around them both now and in the future, and whether it is in accordance with their values.

You can give your students examples of risks and have them vote to determine whether or not they would be worth taking. You can offer examples such as taking some time away from watching TV to do homework at a regular time even though it’s hard to put off doing what you enjoy, and looking at someone else’s paper during a test. You can have your students come up with lists of worthwhile risks and those to avoid, and turn them into a rap, a poster, or a scene

Since it is particularly difficult for young people to think beyond the moment they are experiencing, you can support them in examining possible future consequences of present choices. You can help them look at the results of a variety of choices they might make in response to a desired outcome. You can offer examples and have the students respond to them through discussion, and then write or enact their own series of possible choices.

An example would be examining choices students might make to do well in school. A student might choose to do their homework at a regular place and time, even when their friend wanted to play. They might miss some time with their friend, but they would get better and better grades. A student might choose to do homework on some days, but if their friend called and wanted to play, they wouldn’t do their homework that day. They might have more time with their friend, but their grades would go up and down.

A student might rarely do their homework and rely on luck to get by. On a day of an important test when they weren’t sure of their luck, they might choose, just once, to look at someone’s test for the answers. As a result, they may have gotten an A on that test but became less and less sure if they could ever do well themselves. A student might choose to look on someone else’s paper all the time, feeling less and less confident, more and more guilty, and understanding less and less in class.

You could even help the students look farther into the possible future consequences of choices made. You could help them see that the student last described might drop out of school. That student might have applied for a job at McDonalds and was not able to fill out all the questions on the application because they didn’t understand them. When asked why they didn’t complete it, they might have tried to bluff their way through it. The manager might have told them that they were not McDonald’s material and sent them out the door without a job.

Using this risk analysis process can offer students an important tool to use when making choices. It can be particularly helpful when they are faced with dilemmas or new, unfamiliar situations.

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