Parents Corner

How To Help Your Child Solve Problems


Growing up is about learning foundational skills for life and few skills are more important than problem solving. It may be tempting to “jump in” and solve problems for children, but whenever possible it’s fantastic to involve children in solving their own problems.

It takes five steps to solve a problem:
1. Identify the problem
2. Think of possible solutions
3. Consider the costs and benefits of potential solutions
4. Implement your plan
5. Evaluate to see if the problem has been resolved

When children are little, you can help by giving them the words to identify the problem, e.g. “You want to finish the puzzle, but there’s a piece missing”. Instead of directing children to try your solution, prompt children to think of their own possible solutions with a question like, “what could we do about this?”

Younger children may need help to think of possible solutions. You can begin by offering two ideas. “Perhaps we could look for the piece or try a different puzzle?” This is an effective age-appropriate way to give younger children choice in how they respond a problem. When children are older, we can support more open-ended brain storming.

Children may want to immediately try the first solution that comes to mind. We can prompt children to think ahead and consider consequences with a simple question like, “I wonder what would happen if we tried that?” Maintain curiosity and resist judgment. Remember that the point of such a question is to support children to stop and think before acting.

If a child’s solution doesn’t work out, we can support resilience. It is natural to feel frustrated or disappointed when we don’t succeed at something, but problem solving is all about trying again. It may be helpful to offer to work together to figure out what went wrong.

When children succeed in solving their own problems, they feel more confident and in control of their lives. These positive experiences support greater wellbeing and relationships across the lifespan.

Article Written + Submitted by

Monica Purcell | Family Facilitator

Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services


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