Work Through Problems With Your Teenager

Spending time on working through problems with your child is a really important way of teaching them problem solving and conflict resolution skills. Going through the steps of solving a problem will help them see how to break it down and figure out how to tackle it. Hopefully they will remember these skills later when they have to deal with problems on their own.


Benefits of working through problems with your child                                              

Tackling a difficult problem can be overwhelming. Having your help working through problems shows your child that they are not alone and you are there to support them.  Putting time and energy into developing their problem solving skills will also send the message that you care about their problems and understand that they are important to them. This can help strengthen your relationship with your teen. When your child comes to you with a problem, resist the urge to offer them a quick solution. Instead, work with them to come up with solutions. Walk through the problem step by step until they reach a good strategy to try.

Essential steps for problem solving                                                                                

There are some key steps to follow that can help give structure to solving a problem, whether it’s choosing what subjects to study or dealing with a bully. By teaching your child the steps, they will be able to apply them in many different situations. Initially, it will be helpful to use the steps to work through a problem together. As your teen gains more confidence, you should encourage them to work through the steps with increasing independence.

  • Step 1: Identify the problem. Encourage your teen to think about the difference between a problem and the symptoms of the problem. For example, is the problem that they failed an exam, or that they did not dedicate enough time to study?
  • Step 2: Consider possible solutions. Once the problem is clearly defined, think about all the possible solutions that your teen could use to address the problem. If the problem is they didn’t dedicate enough study time, talk about how to better prepare for the future – write the date of exam in their planner, find out if there are study sessions with the teacher, gather all study materials several nights before eth test and review.  For this test they failed, maybe they could email or talk to their teacher about extra credit.
  • Step 3: Select a solution. Of all the options, which one does your teen think will have the biggest impact? Which one will be easiest for them to achieve? They should decide which approach would work best for them.  Will studying with study buddies help? Will making note cards help? Do they want to keep track of the test on their phone calendar or a paper calendar. How do they want to approach their teacher?
  • Step 4: Try the solution! If your teen doesn’t try anything different, the problem is unlikely to resolve itself. Encourage them to take a few steps and see what happens. If the approach does not work, they can go back to Step 3 and try something else. Remind them that you don’t know unless you try.  If the problem is with a friend – Things don’t always work out perfectly the first time. People are forgiving if you keep trying and don’t give up.

By giving your teen a structured way to work through problems, it’s likely they’ll be able to deal with life’s challenges more confidently and effectively.

Helpful tips for problem solving

  • Having a growth mindset (a belief that learning comes from putting in effort and learning from failure) is important to being able to conquer problems.
  • Compromising – Sometimes you cannot find a solution that makes everyone happy. By compromising, they might be able to find something everyone can live with.
  • In some situations, despite our best efforts, we cannot solve the problem completely. We might need to focus on coping strategies, rather than fixing the problem. Maybe the class is just really hard and your teen has to do some test anxiety relaxation techniques before it.  Maybe the friend doesn’t want to make up right now and your teen has to let it go for now.
  • Be sure to also work on dealing with failure and setbacks

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