If you have been following my journey, you know that we recently put in a pool. We spent a lot of the summer figuring things out with the pool. We recently discovered a problem with the pool. My reaction was to get upset. The installers used a wrong part for the pool, and I was pissed off.

My husband’s reactions to problems are very different from mine. I don’t know if this is because he’s a man. I don’t know if it’s because of who he was raised by? I don’t know if he is just a good problem solver. I get upset and have feelings when there is a problem. Seth jumps into gear and wants to fix the problem yesterday.

Seth looked through the manual, found the part he wanted and called the company. He didn’t waste his time being upset. He jumped into identifying and solving the problem. I was literally blown away by this whole process with him. I was still upset, and he was already on the phone fixing it.

Let’s talk about problem solving and coping skills.

We have a problem.

We have to have the coping skills to sit with this problem.

We need to identify what the problem is.

We need to weigh all our options to solve the problem.

Maybe we want to talk to multiple people to gather data. We can even do some research online about the problem.

Maybe other people know how to solve our problem. Maybe we don’t like how other people suggest for us to solve the problem.

We need to identify the pros and cons to each of our options. After we have looked through each option,

We need to pick the one that we think is the best solution.

If it didn’t turn out the in the way we wanted with the solution that we chose – we can evaluate why this solution didn’t work and we can choose a different option.

Problem solving doesn’t sound too hard, does it? It is important for us to teach our children the problem-solving steps. We need to have coping skills to help us go through this whole problem-solving process. My coping skills needed to be upset for some time before I jumped into solving it and my husband was already all over solving our problem. My coping skills were not moving me through as quickly as we needed to make some action steps to solve the pool problem.

Maybe we don’t want to jump into this problem-solving process that I just took you through. I had the pleasure of interviewing Leslie Cohen-Rubury. She is a wonderful therapist. Go listen to the Whinypaluza Podcast of my interview with her. She had so much good advice for us parents. She talks about different ways that we respond to a problem.

The first way to respond to a problem is to do what Seth did in my example. He jumped in and solved it. Sometimes we have a problem, and we know how to solve it. We solve it if we know how to solve it and if we are in a resourceful enough state to do the problem solving.

Sometimes in order to solve the problem we need to change the way we see a problem. We can teach all of this to our children too. If they have a problem, brainstorm with them different ways to see this problem. One of my favorite examples of this is when a parent would tell me that their child just needs to listen to them. Do they expect the child to listen every time? Do they expect the child to never have anything else to say? Do they expect their child to listen perfectly to them every time? Does that sound realistic to you?

If I change my perspective of what I expect from my child, then I may not have a problem anymore. If I can look at something differently and teach my child to look at it differently, we can figure out different ways to solve the problem.

Leslie says that we can accept and tolerate the problem. Most of us would be uncomfortable with this. We want to solve things especially if it involves our children. I know that I didn’t like that my son had lunch at 10:00 AM last year. I wanted him or I to work on switching his schedule so that he could have a later lunch period. Max decided to keep the early lunch and just used it as a study hall to get his work done. He tolerated the issue of an early lunch. Sometimes we don’t change things and we leave it as is.

When you have a problem, you can also do nothing and remain miserable. I stayed in an unhappy relationship for a long time. I stayed miserable and didn’t do anything to change it or get out of it. Not a good option to take but one way to handle a problem.

Finally, Leslie explains that we can make things worse. We have a problem, and we make the choice to move in a direction that makes it worse. I am thinking about this woman online who hit a house and took off. Hitting the house is a problem and taking off makes it even worse. If we talk about child behavior, maybe your child yelled at you and hit you and you are really mad. Instead of the child running away or taking a breath, he hits you again and makes it even worse. Our actions can lead to making a problem worse.

Do we know how to solve our problem?

Are we going to change the way we look at the problem?

Are we going to accept and tolerate the problem?

Are we going to do nothing?

Are we going to make things worse?

The ideal situation is that our coping skills are effectively kicking in to help us manage and solve a problem. I usually get there. Not as quickly as my husband but I get there.

The next time you have a problem, evaluate how you are responding to the problem. Are you responding in a way that you are happy with. If not, it’s time for some effective coping and problem-solving skills. I would say the most effective tool for me is using my support system. You don’t have to be in this alone. Get yourself in a good state and start working through some problem-solving steps. I personally tend to “waste” a lot of time having my feelings first. We all feel much better when it is resolved. I hope you can be effective in working through any problem that is thrown your way. Let us know what your style tends to be. Are you a doer? Are you a feeler? Are you an avoider?

A special thank you to Leslie Cohen-Rubury for all her important insights to responding to problems.

Happy Problem Solving!

Laughing, Learning, Loving,

Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R

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