Teaching children to problem solve and succeed in challenging situations

Today’s situation is  almost surreal.  None of us, even in our wildest dreams could imagine such circumstances a few months  back. In  these difficult times of a health threat  to the  human race, we are forced to live under constraints totally out of our control ….this makes us stop and think.


In the last few decades we have got used to a way of life where we can take decisions and control our lives totally.  The mobile phones and advanced technology has made everything easily accessible and tailor made. Sitting in our homes and offices we are able to organize our lives at a pace we desire……the world is almost at our fingertips.  Then suddenly everything has come to a grinding halt.


This makes us look back to the important concepts of “Mind in the making “of Swami Vivekananda. What are the essential skills that are pre requisites to man making and character forming?  We need to rethink and focus on how to make sure our children are successful, able to  face challenges, learn and grow.


What better time and opportunity than now when we are forced to live a certain way, very different from our normal routine –  to teach our children some life skills. These skills are fundamental for them to be successful and happy as an adult.

Research across child development shows that Mind and its control is an important element in the process , which help  children thrive. We have to teach them processes so that the brain can think flexibly and respond to changing situations. As situations changes children and us adults should be able to adapt, set new goals and achieve them and not go on auto pilot and do whatever comes to their mind. This is essential for little children,  adolescents and adults.


Some of the life skills we can focus on are: self-control, adaptability, looking at things from other person’s perspective, communication, critical thinking and problem solving skills. We have to look for those opportunities in a day when children are getting bored, showing irritability, when things are out of control to teach them life skills. Parents need to recognize these triggers.


Here are some key parenting tips to teach them these skills:


  1. a) Making the child self-reliant : The adult doesn’t fix the problem for the child but takes an active role in discussing, to help the child figure out, how to solve the problem as well as how to comply within a given situation. For example, the family needs essential items, and the child also wants to go out and play. In this situation, no one can go out, and you can ask the child what are the options left for you both. Let the child think and come out with possible solutions for the family. This will empower the child and this will teach them to practice life skills- like critical thinking and decision making.


b)Teaching  the child to  self-regulate : When a child is upset, it is important to understand what the child is thinking or feeling. In this situation you have to find a way to help the child understand what else they can do to feel better and calm down. Acknowledge the childs feeling and say you understand, and do something together like read a story, listen to comedy, play a game etc, so that the child is able to come out of the situation.


  1. c) How to help them move out of their comfort zone : Child have to learn climb a ladder of challenges (small to big) by themselves in life to achieve bigger goals. For this, give them tasks of different levels of difficulty but achievable, which will help them learn new skills. Problem solving and completing a time bound task (for example, solving sudoko, baking a cake, ironing cloth, finishing home work etc.). Create a situation that is just right for their age. They have to slowly learn to follow the rules and complete the task. Slowly increase the level of difficulty. Also, teach them to respect others feelings. Role model to respect other members show care and concern for other.


  1. d) We have your back..I trust you..You can do it : Many children may not accept a given task/challenge cheerfully. As a parent we have to encourage our children and make it clear to them that you are always there to help. But do not jump in and take over and solve the problem or be critical and discourage them. Tell them it is important to keep trying and tell them your own stories of hardship. Tell them stories of famous personalities who have faced many hardships before they succeeded in life. They have to learn to feel confident and move out of their comfort zone and achieve their goals.


One important reminder, that sometimes when children feel upset and overwhelmed,  parent also become emotional and upset. It is important to detach yourself emotionally take a step back, do not react and learn to create a distance with the situation. As if you are watching a television show rather than it is happening to you, which will help you to manage your own emotions and keep calm. Use different techniques to talk to your child and help him calm down. You can also add humor to those moments instead of getting angry and upset.


Hope these parenting tips will support you during these times.


Wishing you and your family happiness,  great bonding  and many learning and growing opportunities.


Best Wishes from the Taurian family.

Tanushree Sengupta

School Counselor

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