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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 29, 2007

How to aid teenagers in solving problems

By Bobbye Yamamoto

Sometimes it's not easy to assist and guide your teenager. Teens are finding their own identity and asserting their independence.

Adolescents can be baffling because they are simultaneously grown up and not grown up. What continues to be clear is that adolescents need adult guidance.

Teens need to know that their parents care about them. They need to learn how to make grown-up decisions to decide about careers, to make personal value judgments, to learn how to get along on jobs and to manage households. To learn these skills, students need practice, practice they can get at home.

Even teenagers can get used to sizing up a problem and coming up with common-sense ways to solve it. Here's a six-step method that works and can be used at home by parents and teens alike.

  • Step one: What is the problem?

    This is a first, often overlooked, step in problem-solving. State or define the problem, and if there is a conflict, the opposing views and feelings about the issue should be worked out.

  • Step two: What can be done about it?

    Come up with a variety of solutions. Brainstorm as many solutions as possible without judging which ones are better than others. Just keep the ideas coming.

  • Step three: What are the positives and negatives?

    Evaluate the different solutions. What are the pros and cons of each one? You're making judgments, assessing the possible solutions in light of your experience and the way the world works. And in this process you may even come up with a new and better solution.

  • Step four: Making the decision.

    Pick one or perhaps two solutions from the list in Step 3. Talk about why you selected the solution.

  • Step five: Do it.

    Before acting, talk about what will happen and what might be expected. What obstacles can you anticipate? What assistance can you expect? How can traps be avoided by building on the available assistance.

  • Step six: How did it go?

    How did it work? What changes must be made in the solution so it will work better? What would you try next time? It's possible that a decision that sounded good will not work in real life.

    After going through the process with one problem, ask your teenager to try another. The goal is to help teens get into the habit of rational problem-solving.

    This column is provided through the Hawai'i State Teachers Association. Bobbye Yamamoto is a ninth- and 10th-grade English teacher at Castle High School.