Does Your Teen Know the Difference Between a Problem and a Tragedy?

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Working with hundreds of kids for many years taught me an important lesson: kids cannot see the difference between a problem and a tragedy. For kids, every event that is the least bit troubling can reach crisis proportions in moments.

Lack of life experience is the major reason for our kids having difficulty in discerning the difference between a problem and tragedy. The tender developmental years of adolescence do not suit them to understanding how serious a problem is much less how to try to solve it. When you have experienced a problem before, you know just what to do. When the problem is one you have never encountered, you feel uneasy but not panicked because your experience has shown you most problems are not irreversible. A teen does not have this knowledge.

Different Perceptions

Here we also get into the perceptions of a teen in relation to those of an adult. A teen just does not see things in the same way as adults. This is one of the chief causes of miscommunication between parents and teens. It is also one cause of any minor problem becoming a crisis in your teen's eyes.

A small problem reaches gigantic proportions quickly because teens are not prepared to solve any problem. Teaching them how to recognize and solve problems is an important life skill. As with many things, example is an excellent teacher.

A parent who does not easily panic¾ one who does not feel it necessary to make a tragedy out of everything that goes wrong¾ will help their kids deal with crisis, as well as everyday problems. The parent who acts like their world will soon end due to a minor problem is teaching their children a lesson, but the wrong one. Unless you have aspirations for your child to be an Academy Award winner, this lesson will not benefit them! Show them how to take problems in stride and work on a solution.

Teach by Example

From the time a child is little, he should be trained to think. This is a job reserved for the school, but parents must start it at home. Common sense is needed to analyze any situation. Common sense cannot be taught as much as shown and practiced. Children of any age should be given every opportunity to solve a problem by themselves. When he faces a dilemma, let him work it out.

Parents too often "fix things" for kids. Although it eases our frustration, it teaches our children nothing. Let him try to solve the problem. This way he will form the habit of using tools and steps to work things out.

Maybe your teen does not drive, and you usually chaperone him. Today, you are not available. How does he get to an appointment? This child must learn to see all sides of the problem along with deciding if this is a minor inconvenience or a tragedy. Does he know how to reschedule an appointment? Could he call a cab or catch a bus? Can he read a bus schedule? Is there another trustworthy person you would approve of who could drive him? A teen needs to solve this problem in a calm way. They need to decide which solutions are practical and which are inappropriate or dangerous.

Panic Button is Off!

Suppose a teen learns how to analyze every problem in this same way. This leads to a clearer understanding of what is solvable and what is truly a tragedy. A crisis is where a turning point is reached and the decision made has very important results. Crisis or tragedy is not the place for the child to experiment with how to solve problems. Let them practice on all those everyday situations that require a decision. If they learn how to proceed to analyze and solve any common situation, they won't panic with the "big stuff."

When a true tragedy or even a crisis is part of your life, teach your child the importance of asking for help. Show them the value of staying calm and acting in a methodical way to get through the situation. Then the next time your teen has a minor problem, it won't result in a situation that feels like an earth-shattering event.

Credits: Jo Ann Wentzel

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