Parenting is a journey!
Along with all the precious moments and unforgettable experiences, there are the inevitable bumps, potholes, and danger zones.
Helping your child solve problems can feel a bit like travelling down a bumpy road … finding dead-end after dead-end … and losing sight of the destination…
And if you’re like most parents we see at our practice?
You probably want your child to feel as though you are working on solving problems together, and not simply lecturing and “ear-bashing” them!
So, with that in mind, here are our top ten tips for navigating your way through the problem-solving minefield, together with your child:
1. Try not to play the role of “Mr./Mrs. Fix-It”.
Often, children get frustrated with being offered a solution that at the time, doesn’t feel just quite right for their particular problem.
2. Help them to find their own answers and solutions.
As parents, of course you want to make everything ok, but ultimately, you want to foster problem-solving ability in your child.
By helping your child find their own answers and solutions, you are empowering them to feel confident in their own abilities and able to cope in their world.
3. Teach your child how they can “survive” difficult or unpleasant feelings.
While frustration, anger, disappointment, sadness, and regret may not make them feel good, your child needs to learn that they can manage these feelings when they inevitably arise.
This is helping to build resilience and coping mechanisms.
4. Try to keep the focus on your child, and not you!
Parents like to tell anecdotes about having dealt with similar situations and children often feel as though this diminishes the importance and uniqueness of their own specific circumstances.
It may feel dismissive to them to offer your personal experience of a similar problem. Instead, just be available to listen and offer your support, should they ask for it.
5. Children feel better when they feel understood.
Children will value feeling understood more than simply being handed a solution.
Here are some comments that might help:
- “It sounds like this has been very difficult for you”
- “I can see you are having a hard time”
- “I would like to help you — perhaps together we can try think of strategies and ways to make it better?”
- “I trust that you have the skills to find a way to manage this. I support you and am here for you”
6. Timing is everything!
After a full day at school, children need some downtime to relax, unwind, and recharge their energy.
It is generally not a good time to have intense discussions and to brainstorm problem-solving (this is often the time when parents are answered in monosyllables!).
Instead, why not establish a set time at home that is dedicated to having a few minutes’ chat?
This could be during wind-down time before bed, or perhaps during scheduled “talking time” or “meetings”. It is a good idea to try and make these feel informal and calm — perhaps even over tea/coffee, hot chocolate or a nice treat!
7. Encourage your child to think, plan, and reassess before acting.
You are helping them develop an important life-skill by teaching them that problem solving is an ongoing process rather than an instant fix.
They might also benefit from jotting thoughts down in a journal, or talking it through with someone.
8. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Remind your child of this until they embrace it!
9. Applaud your child’s strengths and focus on positive outcomes.
Tell them that you are proud of their efforts and their attempts to work through difficult situations.
10. Encourage your child to have a support network.
This includes other adults, family members, teachers, and friends.
Every parenting journey is different and there are many ways to reach a destination.
Along the way, you are able to observe, learn, and appreciate the gift of being in the moment.
Enjoy the ride!
And if you feel like you and your child might benefit from some extra support from an experienced psychologist to help further develop problem-solving skills and build resilience, you are welcome to get in touch.