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Family Problem-Solving: Turning Everyday Problems into Solutions

Problem solving

By Kelly Young, LMSW  Kelly Young
Director of Family Preservation Services for the Kansas City Region, KVC Kansas 

This article from the KVC Institute for Health Systems Innovation is the fifth in a 12-part series on parenting skills. See previous articles.


Think back to the last time you had a family problem arise. Were you able to achieve a solution to that problem or were you unsure of how to even begin to solve that problem?

Problem-solving skills are helpful in turning everyday problems into solutions. In order to achieve the solution, it’s important to know what the desired end is. For this reason, the first step to problem-solving is identifying a goal statement.

Goal statements are future-oriented statements that are simple, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. Let’s explore how to turn a problem statement into a goal statement.

Problem Statement:

You get home from work and are greeted by your children and spouse saying, “What’s for dinner?” “Can you help me with my math homework?” “Who is taking me to soccer practice?” Everyone is talking at the same time about problems they need help with. You want to look forward to coming home from work and not be immediately bombarded with the needs of others.

Goal Statement:

When you arrive home from work, all family members will give you 15 minutes to relax and get settled in.

This approach moves from just identifying the problem to specifying what we want to have happen. This is the first step in problem-solving.


Family problem-solving includes six steps:

1. Make a goal statement

  • Positive, future-oriented
  • Simple, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound

2. Brainstorm solutions

  • No idea is a bad idea
  • Be creative

3. Consider solutions

  • Weigh pros/cons for each idea

4. Combine solutions and come up with a plan

  • Consider solutions
  • Combine solutions

5. Write an agreement

  • Who will do what and when

6. Try it out!

Interested in trying this out? Download this Family Problem-Solving Worksheet!

Family problem solving is one of twelve skills taught in the Parent Management Training- Oregon (PMTO) model. PMTO is developed on forty years of research and practice with the core belief that parents are their children’s best teachers. KVC teaches this empowering evidence-based practice to parents and caregivers involved in the child welfare system, but the lessons learned from this model can be beneficial for any parent or caregiver. To learn about PMTO in Kansas, visit the Kansas Department for Children and Families’ website.

Read the other articles in this parenting skills blog series.

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