The basic method to use to help children learn how to solve problems is actually pretty simple. You state the problem, encourage them to come up with some solutions, and then encourage them to pick a win-win solution. If your child can’t find their shoes or their homework, or they’re having a conflict with a sibling or friend, teaching children to solve problems is key to helping children learn how to manage their life.
Back in 2010, there was a study published in Behavior Research and Therapy. This study found that children who lacked problem-solving skills were at higher risk for depression. Teaching children problem-solving skills or teaching them how to have these skills actually improved their mental health. Just like any and all adults, children face a variety of challenges and problems every single day.
When children are unsure of how to solve a problem, they may invest their energy avoiding the situation instead of working through it. A great time to actually start teaching children these problem-solving skills is around preschool age. Then it will continue all the way up through their high school years and beyond. So here’s how to help your children work through problems.
Here is how to teach children to solve problems:
Step 1: State The Problem
This may sound like, “I hear some upset voices. It sounds like there may be a problem,”
or “I see that you’re struggling with your homework. It seem like there may be a problem that you’re stuck on that you don’t know how to get through. Is that correct?”
“You’re feeling sad because you don’t have anyone to play with at recess.”
“You’re feeling upset at your brother because he keeps knocking over the towers that you’re building.”
Step 2: Restate The Problem
Not only does stating the problem help you, as a parent, but helps you to understand the situation better. It also helps your children to feel heard and validated. Third is to invite your child to come up with some win-win solutions. You want your child to brainstorm at least three to five suggestions on their own. Now, if they’re feeling stuck, feel free to offer some suggestions.
Now, it’s important to not give your child the answer that or the suggestion that they should do. This is a time for your child to see that there are loads of creative solutions that they can try.
Step 4: Write Down All Suggestions
When I mean all suggestions, I mean, yes, even the silly or ones that seem way too far-fetched, write them all down. You may write these down on your phone or get a piece of paper and a pencil. Really anywhere where you can easily write down suggestions.
This step is super duper important because it helps children to visually see possible solutions and it helps them to own the process.
Step 5: Pick A Solution
For this step, you’re just going to go down the list of the suggestions that you wrote and encourage your child to pick one.
Step 6: Test Out The Solution
You want to encourage your child to try out the solution that they picked. If they see the solution that they picked didn’t work for the situation, encourage them to pick another from the list. Now hear me out. I know it’s probably super duper tempting to just go ahead and solve the situation for your child, or just pick the one on the list. However, really try to step back and allow your child to explore these different solutions and try it out for themselves.
This is especially true for young children who are just learning the basics of problem-solving and developing the skill. Oftentimes we, as parents, know what the right answer is. We know how to solve it and we just want to jump in there and do it. That’s partially due to the fact that our brains are actually wired to solve problems.
When your child is faced with a challenging situation or problem, walk your child through these six steps, and over time they will actually start doing it themselves, but they need you as guidance to start them off on the right foot.
Feel free to offer guidance and assistance where you see that your child may be feeling stuck. And like I said, over time, your children will actually start to do this process for themselves. They will not need you to be there to guide them through every situation or challenging problem that they have.
Trust in this process and trust in your child as they develop these problem-solving skills.
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