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Problem-solving

Depression can get worse when there are high levels of external demands, pressures and changes in the family that cause stress. Of course, this isn’t surprising since too much pressure and stress can make a person feel more anxious and overwhelmed, and therefore affect mood in a negative way.

There are different forms of stress. Some forms of stress for a teenager come from the pressures of schoolwork, exams, and wanting to do well academically. Other stresses may originate from peers, friends and social media. Often at this age, relationships with friends and boyfriends/girlfriends can be intense and changeable. There’s a lot to be dealing with in terms of ‘fitting in’ whilst at the same time trying to find your own identity and confidence as an individual.

How we see problems

Everyone encounters problems much of the time, from small daily situations such as finding the time to juggle competing demands to much bigger issues that may affect the whole family or our future. The way we approach problems is very important.

If we see problems as terrible, as a nuisance, there to ruin our lives, or as overwhelming and unmanageable, this will not motivate us to try to solve them and we will tend to avoid facing up to things. If we see problems in a slightly different way, we will be much more inclined to be proactive and to work to find solutions. It may be helpful for you to have a think right now about your child’s general approach towards problems. Do they tend to see problems as an opportunity to find solutions and to learn something or do they tend to view problems as overwhelming and to be avoided at all costs? Are there ways that you can encourage your child to approach situations more and to have a more positive attitude towards problems and solving them?

Encouraging your teenager to solve problems

If you feel that your teenager could be applying problem-solving more often in order to help them feel more in control, more confident and more engaged in life’s decisions and situations, then see below for a step-by-step guide to this technique. Sometimes simply starting with something very simple and minor can give a person a sense of motivation and confidence and it can counteract those very unhelpful thoughts such as ‘it’s all hopeless’, I’m useless’, ‘it’s no good’, ‘there’s nothing I can do’, ‘it will be awful’ and so on.

When you tackle a problem head on, find some solutions, put them into action and find some sort of resolution, it’s pretty hard to think these sorts of thoughts with quite as much confidence. Instead, young people who engage in problem solving on a regular basis are more likely to have thoughts along the lines of ‘I can cope’, ‘everything has a solution’, ‘it will be OK’, ‘there’s hope still’, ‘I can look after myself’ etc. These thinking styles will have a positive effect on mood and build more confidence.

Feel free to show this article to your teenager or simply encourage them to apply these strategies in your own way. It usually works best to write each step down so we’ve provided a downloadable worksheet found at the bottom of the Step.

Solving problems step-by-step

This skill has particular steps that are best taken in the right order.

STEP 1

Decide on what the problem is – name it:

‘The problem is ………..

Remember that attitude towards problems is important at this stage so this is a good time to see the problem as an opportunity rather than as a nuisance.

STEP 2

Come up with some possible solutions – it’s helpful to let your imagination run wild for a while and to note down some funny and ridiculous solutions. Keeping the humour in this helps some people to come up with more solutions and to be creative with it.

STEP 3

Think about each solution and how good you think it is – will it solve the problem completely or maybe even just a little?

STEP 4

Choose one or two of your favourite solutions – they don’t have to be perfect, in fact most of the time solutions are not perfect, they’re just OK.

STEP 5

Plan how and when you’ll try them out.

STEP 6

Try them. Did they work?

STEP 7

If not, try some other ones.

STEP 8

Stop and remind yourself that it’s great you’ve remembered to practice solving problems, no matter what the outcome.

We invite you to make a list of some the problems that you could work on for yourself and some that your teenager could problem solve as well.

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This article is from the free online course:

Understanding Depression and Low Mood in Young People

University of Reading

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