Solving problems is such an important life skill and one that we are constantly striving to perfect throughout life. As parents, we can sometimes take this responsibility out of our children’s hands. Sometimes it seems easier to solve their problems for them. We can feel like it’s our job, our responsibility. It helps them and makes their lives easier and often our own lives are simpler if we just do it ourselves. But this is not always the best option for our children and it is important that they learn and practice problem solving skills from a young age so that they can become confident in their ability to solve problems throughout their lives.
So how can parents help their children learn this vital life skill? Try to turn problem solving into a game and make it fun. Your children could become “detectives” trying to solve their problems. When your child has a problem help them to generate lots of ideas about what they could do so that they have a number of choices. Make it personal for them if you can. Ask them if they have ever had a problem like this before and what they did then or maybe their friend had a similar experience, what did they do?
Allow them the time to explore each solution. For example they could act it out for you or draw pictures. It doesn’t have to be complicated – just ask them to show you. This process helps children to have an awareness of the possible consequences of each solution. When exploring possible solutions help your child to figure out which might be the best one by asking them is it fair? Is it safe? Does it lead to good feelings?
Investigate the feelings that each solution generates with them. Naming feelings is important for children so that they can learn to self regulate and learn better responses. Prepare your children for the possibility that their solution might not work. Ask them what they will do next if it doesn’t.
The best way to teach our children these skills is to model them. Talk through the process of solving some of your own problems aloud. Include the steps of generating ideas, exploring which one would be best, considering feelings and planning for the possibility that your first solution might not work. Use stories, puppets, drawing and role play so that children can learn this skill and practice it over and over, enabling them to refine and perfect their problem solving abilities.
This article was contributed by a member of Parenting Limerick. Parenting Limerick is a network of parenting and family support organisations.