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Help your child build problem solving skills

4 July 2019

Team Girls is dedicated to fostering and promoting girls’ participation in sport. It’s about girls supporting girls, building up their confidence, and knowing they’re stronger when they stand together – on and off the court.

Whether it's balancing school work with training demands or being chosen as Wing Defence when you had your heart set on Centre; facing and solving problems is a part of our everyday lives.

If you can work through these issues with your teenager step by step, you'll help them build skills to solve problems.

Do it together

When your child comes to you with a problem – no matter how small – get into a habit of asking them questions, instead of offering them a quick solution. Talk through the problem step by step and ask questions that will encourage them to come up with ideas for solutions. Once they have options, help them reach a decision about for a strategy that they feel comfortable with.

Instead of a problem becoming overwhelming, working it through together shows them they're not alone and gives them an opportunity to practice some of the skills they'll need to solve problems on their own. Putting energy into developing their skills will also send the message that you value their opinion and help strengthen your connection together.

Four steps to effective problem solving

Below are some key steps for problem solving and conflict resolution that can be applied to any issue, big or small – from figuring out what subject to pick at school to responding to bullying. To start, you might want to work through the steps together but as they gain confidence, encourage them to work through the steps more independently. By showing them these steps your teenager will be able to apply them in many different scenarios.

  • Identify the issues. Encourage your teenager to consider – even write down - the issues. What's the problem and what are the symptoms of the problem? For example, is the problem that they failed an exam, or that they are on the bench this week?
  • Identify potential solutions. Once the problem is clearly defined, consider all the ideas for solutions to the problem – make a list! Explore the implications of each solution.
  • Choose one solution. Of all the ideas listed, which one does your teenager feel the most comfortable with? Ask questions to help them figure it out, rather than telling them what to do. You can ask them what idea they think will have the biggest positive impact, or which one will be easiest for them to achieve. Encourage them to choose an approach that will work best for them.
  • Give it a go! This might involve breaking down the solution into small steps. Encourage them to take one step at a time and see what happens! Remind them that they can call on support from their friends or family. Also, if things don't work out, they can go back a step and try one of the other options.

By showing your teenager a structured way to work through problems, it could help them cope with life's challenges with more confidence.

Netball girl smiling

Other tips

  • A 'growth mindset' is a belief that an individual's skills and talents can be developed through hard work, by learning from failures and input from others – and this mindset is helpful for problem solving. People with a growth mindset tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (who believe their skills and talents are innate gifts).
  • Encourage your child to participate in extra curricular activities that will help them build their conflict resolution skills. Playing a team sport is a great way for kids to learn how to deal with lots of different personalities. As Gabi Simpson, and Suncorp Super Netball Team Girls Ambassador says: "I know that in a team sport like Netball we are so fortunate to have great supportive people around us. When you start playing in a team, you need to start accepting your teammates for who they are. Likewise, you need to be accepted for who you are, in order for you to be your best. Sport by nature can be competitive and fraught by conflict. Learning to accept that everyone's different, with different personalities and strengths, creates a more cohesive team environment and enables everyone to thrive.
  • Acknowledge that sometimes a solution can't be found that suits everyone. In situations like this, encourage them to compromise and figure something out that everyone can live with.
  • And finally, in some situations and despite our best efforts, we can't solve the problem completely. Instead we can focus on ways to cope, rather than fixing the problem.


Reach out logo

ReachOut is Australia's leading online health website for young people and their parents. Working with registered counsellors, psychologists and mental health professionals ReachOut provides online self-help tools that are used by over 1.5 million Australians each year. A valuable resource for many parents, teens and young adults.

If your child, or anyone you know is having issues with self-esteem, confidence or mental or physical health, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.

This content includes the views and opinions of a third-party, and does not necessarily reflect the views of Suncorp. Information is intended to be of a general nature only and any advice has been prepared without taking into account any person's particular objectives, personal situation or needs.

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