Childhood is a magical time and it can be tempting, as parents, to tell our children that the world is all butterflies, rainbows and unicorns. There is actually nothing wrong with children using their imagination to take themselves into a world just like that. We must, however, also take the time to tell our children that there will be times, in life, when we will be faced with problems. We need children to understand that problems are uncomfortable situations that require them to either come up with a solution that completely solves the problem or that at least makes the situation a little easier for all those involved.
In The Magic Coat, one of the characters is Solomon the Surfboard. Solomon reminds children that in life we will be faced with big problems and little problems, similar to the waves in the ocean. Some are big and some are small.
Solomon encourages children to not run away from those problems but instead to jump on him and ride the wave as they look for solutions.
Children are taught that, just like real life surfers, they will sometimes fall off Solomon and feel angry and frustrated because it can seem so hard to ride the wave and find a solution. Just like real surfers, however, they have to just keep jumping back on Solomon until the wave subsides.
When children are faced with a problem there is a step by step approach that parents can take to teach them basic problem solving skills;
- Help the child to identify the problem. You can say either, “I can see you have a problem there.” or “ What seems to be the problem?”
- Sit down with the child and talk about jumping on Solomon the Surfboard to look for solutions.
- Brainstorm the different possible solutions with the child - writing ideas on a piece of paper can be useful.
- Encourage the child to circle the solution they would like to try first. Remind your child that if this solution doesn’t work it is just like surfers falling off their surfboard. He or she will have to jump back on Solomon and try a new solution. This just prepares them if something may not work.
- Try the solution (If it works praise the child for their problem solving). If the solution didn’t work then go back to the list of solution ideas and allow the child to try a new one.
- Always reiterate that in life, even when it seems really hard you must never, ever give up.
When problem solving skills are taught, modeled and reinforced, children gain confidence and begin to independently tackle problems, which is vital for their development.
Your children will build their self esteem, knowing that they have the ability to problem solve and they will be pro active, persistent and creative in their thinking. When your children have problem solving skills they are less likely to see the world as a scary place and bury their heads in the sand. They will tackle life head on, experiencing success and failure along the way, which will make them truly resilient.