Problem-solving with Teenagers

Problem-solving is an important life skill for teenagers to learn. You can help your child develop this skill by using problem-solving at home.

Everybody needs to solve problems every day. But we are not born with the skills we need to do this – we have to develop them. Often you can solve problems by talking and compromising, also calm communication, active listening, and compromise will help you.

When teenagers learn skills and strategies for problem-solving and sorting out conflicts by themselves, they feel better about themselves. They are more independent and better placed to make good decisions on their own.

When you are working on a problem with your child, it is a good idea to do it when everyone is calm and can think. Arrange a time when you would not be interrupted, and thank your child for joining in to solve the problem.

The first step in problem-solving is working out exactly what the problem is. This helps make sure you and your child understand the problem in the same way. Then put it into words that make it solvable. Help your child describe what is causing the problem and where it is coming from.

Try to listen without arguing or debating, this is your chance to really hear what is going on with your child. Be open about the reasons for your concerns, and try to keep blame out of this step. Try to avoid judging or debating these yet.

If your child has trouble coming up with solutions, start him off with some suggestions of your own. Look at the solutions, in turn, talking about the positives and negatives of each one. Consider the pros before the cons, this way, no-one will feel that their suggestions are being criticized.

The solution you choose should be one that you can put into practice and that will solve the problem. If you have not been able to find one that looks promising, it might help to talk to other people, like other family members, to get a fresh range of ideas.

Sometimes you might not be able to find a solution that makes you both happy. But by compromising, you should be able to find a solution you can both live with.

Once you have agreed on a solution, plan exactly how it will work. You could also talk about when you will meet again to look at how the solution is working. Your child might need some role-playing or coaching to feel confident with his solution.

Once your child has put the plan into action, you need to check how it went and help him to go through the process again if he needs to.

Remember that you will need to give the solution time to work, and note that not all solutions will work. Sometimes you will need to try more than one solution. Part of effective problem-solving is being able to adapt when things do not go as well as expected.

If your child sees you actively dealing with problems, he might be more likely to try it himself.