Meet SuperHero Brian
Brian is a problem solver. When faced with a challenging situation, Brian takes a deep breath and allows his mind to think of some ideas for solving the problem. Brian is always willing to ask for help and advice from adults he trusts when he can’t solve a problem on his own.
Why is problem solving a critical skill to learn?
People of all ages will face difficulties and challenges in life. When kids face difficulties while in your home, it’s a great opportunity for us to equip them with crucial problem-solving skills they’ll need throughout their lifetime.
Facing and overcoming struggles builds resilience, just like resistance training builds our physical muscles. Rather than working overtime to prevent adversity for our kids, we want to allow just the right amount of safe struggle so they can practice working through problems.
We can only avoid problems for so long before they grow into much BIGGER problems. So, we might as well show our kids how to face them! Believing and allowing our kids to work through problems, with our support and coaching, also increases their confidence. This kind of confidence equates to healthy self-esteem, another critical element of a strong individual. So in order for our kids to thrive, they must have healthy problem-solving skills.
When our kids encounter the angst of a problem, it’s natural for parents and caregivers to want to protect them from pain, disappointment, or frustration. Acknowledge that you see them struggling and then ask them what they would like to do about it?
- Notice and name how you’re feeling about the situation. Sad? Frustrated? Scared?
- Choose something healthy to do to take calm yourself down or comfort yourself. Exercise, a warm bath, journal, a fun activity.
- Decide who needs to be involved in solving the problem. Is this a problem between friends? School? Can parents help coach?
- Talk over the problem.
- Listen to others’ point of view.
- Decide on the result you want.
- List all possible ideas or steps.
- Expect some resistance to trying new things.
These tips are taken from our signature, research-based curriculum, Survival Skills for Healthy Foster, Adoptive, and Kinship Families.
How does it evolve as children get older?
As children get older, their problems will become more serious and so will the consequences. This is a natural process and can be scary for parents. And yet the same principals of step-by-step problem solving apply. Continue to coach young people through steps, showing them that you are there to support them AND you believe they have what it takes to take responsibility for the solution.
How can we model problem solving as parents?
Parents can model good problem solving skills by having regular family meetings to talk about what is working in the family and what needs to change. Pick a problem to solve as a family. Work through the steps, allowing everyone to give ideas and input. Make assignments for who is responsible for each action step and then plan a time to come back and assess how things are going.
Activities for different age groups:
- Toddlers and Preschoolers: Get out your favorite puzzles and do them together as a family. Bonus: During this type of activity you have a great opportunity to have a conversation and start to help them identify what they’re feeling and how to communicate it. Another option is to create a fun scavenger hunt. Give them clues and send them off on an adventure. As they find each clue, they’ll be building their confidence and learning how to solve problems without even realizing it.
- Elementary Age: Come up with sample problems, write on a card, and ask, “What would you do if….” These questions will be great to pull out anytime your child comes up against a problem they don’t know how to work through. Download our guide with 15 prompts you can use right now!
- Middle and High School: Be prepared with age appropriate, “What would you do if….” questions centered on adolescent issues that often arise. If they’re hesitant to share their responses with you verbally, that’s ok. Have them journal the answers if that’s more comfortable. The most important piece is that they put some thought into their answers and feel safe to talk through them if they want. Budget planning activities are great as well. For example, “You have $50 to plan a fun day with your friend. What can you do?” Aspirational conversations that remove barriers that might have them stuck create a different opportunity for problem solving.
Want some additional resources for crafting these conversations? We love this blog post from Home Speech Home, 30 Problem Solving Scenarios.
SuperHero Brian is your child’s partner in problem solving! He helps you see ways you can take tough situations and come up with solutions that feel good to you. By being prepared with prompts and questions, you can have the tools you need to help your child problem solve on their own and feel supported at the same time.