How Important Are Problem Solving Skills for Kids and Teens
Problems are an inevitable aspect of human life, and as adults, we know that and we’re accustomed to dealing with problems of all kinds. But many times we forget how confusing and intimidating it can be to face a seemingly unsolvable problem as a kid or a teenager. The good news is that by helping our children develop a solid range of problem-solving skills, we can help them manage the stress and uncertainty of an unpleasant situation while focusing on working toward a viable solution.
Famous behavioral therapist James Lehman once stated that one of the main reasons for bad child behavior is that children are simply not skilled in how to solve problems effectively. A young child or teenager with a very limited set of problem solving skills will many times attempt to cope with the situations that life throws their way by either shutting down or acting out, neither of which is a desirable response.
Conversely, a child who has developed a strong set of problem solving skills will stand a much better chance of resolving the issue with minimal stress, greatly reducing the potential for anxiety, confusion or emotional meltdowns.
So how can you as a parent help your young child or teenager develop effective problem solving skills? Below are some key ideas to help you get those problem solving gears turning in your child’s mind.
1. Keep in mind that no matter what types of problems your child will encounter, the work required to find a solution will follow a similar path. There will always be a need to thoroughly assess the situation, explore possible solution options, and then determine which option will make the most sense among the different choices. Teaching this basic decision-making method to your child should be a running theme, no matter what particular type of problem he/she may be dealing with.
2. Games that require strategic thinking are always a great choice, because they help your child learn the critical skill of assessing an array of possible outcomes before taking action. Chess is one of the most popular games along these lines, because the very nature of the game is to learn how to think ahead before making a move. Jenga (the famous block stacking game) is another great example of this, because it requires the player to think about the consequences before committing to a particular course of action; otherwise, the tower will come crashing down! Playing strategy-based games with your kid will not only help them sharpen their problem solving skills, but it will also be a great way to spend time with them doing something that both of you will enjoy.
3. Find ways to get your child involved in real-life problem solving activities. For example, you could have him/her help you with a hands-on, multi-phase project of some kind such as restoring an old car, building a backyard shed, rearranging/renovating a room, etc.
Another fun way to help them develop important problem solving skills is to have them participate in an escape room experience such as Cincinnati’s Houdini’s Room Escape. In this unique adventure, participants are locked in a themed room and challenged to escape the room in 60 minutes or less by looking for clues and solving a series of riddles/puzzles. Teaming up with your child and getting them involved in the problem solving process will give them some great practice in working toward achieving solutions, which will equip them to handle a variety of real-life challenges.
The important thing to remember is that your child will need consistent exposure to problem solving opportunities in order to develop a solid level of proficiency in their problem solving abilities. As with anything else, practice makes perfect, so do your best to be proactive in helping your child learn this vital skill, which will pay great dividends throughout their entire life.