Work through problems with your teenager

mother talk to son with backs to camera
mother talk to son with backs to camera

mother talk to son with backs to camera

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 break it down and work out how to tackle it, and 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’re not alone. It may also give them the energy they need to start solving the problem, and gives them a valuable opportunity to learn some of the skills they need to solve problems on their own.

Putting time and energy into developing their problem solving skills will also send the message that you value their input, and help build a strong relationship with your teenager.

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 you 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’ll 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 child gains more confidence, you should encourage to work through the steps with increasing independence.

  • Step 1: Identify the problem. Encourage your child 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 didn’t dedicate enough time to study?
  • Step 2: Consider possible solutions. Once the problem is clearly defined, think about all the possible solutions that your child could use to address the problem.
  • Step 3: Select a solution. Of all the options, which one does your child think will have the biggest impact? Which one will be easiest for them to achieve? They should decide which approach will work best for them.
  • Step 4: Give the solution a try! If your child doesn’t try anything different, the problem is unlikely to resolve itself. Encourage them to take small steps and see what happens. They may want to call on support from you, family members, their friends or others. If the approach doesn’t work, they can go back to Step 3 and try something else.

By giving your child 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.
  • Sometimes you can’t 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 can’t solve the problem completely. We might need to focus on coping strategies, rather than fixing the problem.
  • Be sure to also work on dealing with failure and setbacks.

Page last review by ReachOut Parents Clinical Advisory Group on