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4 Problem-Solving Steps for Children

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Everyone has problems. Life is full of ups and downs. Sometimes our struggles are totally explainable. Sometimes they are a complete mystery.

As a therapist, I hear a lot about problems. I am the kind of therapist who doesn’t just look at the problem and suggest a solution to help make it feel better. I look for why this problem even exists. In order to dig into the why of a client’s problems, I use this assessment strategy that helps me break it down.

As a mom, I use this same tool to understand what is going on with my kids and as a guide to help create resolutions. Go through each of these problem-solving steps and see if you can get to the bottom of what is going on with your child.

1. Biological:

Is there something off with your body? How are you sleeping? Did you take medicine or do you need to? Are you starting to get sick? Have you been eating healthy?

When our bodies are not doing what they need to be doing or we aren’t taking care of our bodies well, we can start to shut down. If you look at a problem and see that something biological is not as it should be, you need to correct it with something biological. For example, if one of my kids is acting out of character, I would see if they have eaten, not slept well, or if they have a fever. Then I would take a step to correct it.

If there are no signs of anything biologically being off with my child, I move on to the next one.

2. Psychological:

How are you thinking about this problem? Are you spiraling in fear and only thinking about the worst case scenario? Are you feeling really sad and lonely? Has your perfectionist mindset taken over?

When we have stinkin’ thinkin’ about something, our minds can take over and create problems. If your child is acting differently than typical, check to see how they are thinking about the problem. For example, if my daughter is crying and upset because she can’t figure out how to tie her shoe, I would stop and check in with her about what she is thinking. Maybe her self-esteem is struggling. Maybe she is scared she will be made fun of by other kids if she can’t do it well. If you see a psychological issue, address it with encouraging your child and correcting their negative self-talk.

Understanding how your child thinks about a problem can help you create resolutions. If you don’t see this as a problem for your child, move on to the next section.

3. Social or Environmental:

This is the part when you look around to see if there is anything around your child that might be adding to the problem. Is something in their environment stressing them out? It could be something simple like the weather is gross and is bringing them down. This step can include people and/or actual things that are stressors contributing to the problem.

It could be that Daddy is traveling again, a friend is creating drama, or homework is becoming too stressful. If your child is acting different and you discover it is because of something in this stage, brainstorm with your child ways to help. If homework is the problem, check out these ways to survive homework meltdowns.

4. Spiritual:

How have things been going on your family’s faith journey? Sometimes our faith can feel like we are in the desert and that is part of our problem. It is important to assess if this is happening so you can intentionally develop your faith. Exploring and growing in your faith and teaching your child how to as well is a good way to build a firm foundation for your child to lean on. Here are some ways to start this by teaching your child to pray.

So next time you notice something going on with your child and you can’t quite figure out why, use these steps to help break it down. Many times you will find something in each category that is part of the issue. This awareness will help you create resolutions for your child.

Which category is hardest for you to help your child in?

Teri Claassen is a Jesus follower, wife to Dan, mommy to one boy and one girl, a foster mom to kids in need, and a therapist at Renewed Horizon Counseling in Tampa, FL.


What is the hardest thing you are dealing with right now?

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