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Here is a general strategy for approaching ANY problem. Whether it’s your child’s substance use – or any of the related problems – communication, behavior, friend choices, school performance and emotional development (you name it!)
Here are seven steps for solving problems based on CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training) among other behavioral approaches. This approach will take you beyond painful avoidance strategies and unreliable quick fixes, to help you work through problems thoroughly and systematically. As you practice with these steps, try to apply (and give yourself credit for) what you already do well, and take the time you need to learn what would be useful that you don’t already know.
- Define the problem as narrowly as you can. Often what people take as “the problem” is actually many smaller problems lumped together. No wonder they feel overwhelmed. When you describe a problem, be on the lookout for multiple problems embedded within your description, and tease them apart. The idea is to tackle one relatively discrete problem at a time. Solutions are more manageable with a series of smaller problems and you’ll feel more accomplished and optimistic as you get through each one.
- Brainstorm possible solutions. In this step, your task is to write down as many solutions as you can think of, to foster a sense of possibility and give yourself some choice. Brainstorming is an open, free-for-all process of allowing every idea in the door as they come, to be sorted and refined later. Your inner critic will tend to dismiss ideas out of habit or fear; but some of these could be viable options if you gave them a chance. List without judging. Try not to rule out anything before you’ve written down every conceivable solution to your problem.
- Eliminate unwanted suggestions. Now that you have an exhaustive list of potential solutions, you can examine them more closely and cross out any that are unappealing. Eliminate options that you can’t actually imagine ever doing, have too many downsides, or seem unrealistic. If you end up crossing off every idea, then return to step 2 and brainstorm again.
- Select one potential solution or goal. Pick one solution that seems doable to you, that you can see yourself trying this week. Hint: a doable goal is put in brief, simple, and positive terms (what you will do, not what you won’t do or haven’t been doing), is specific and measurable, reasonable and achievable, in your control, and involves skills you already have or are learning. (For a detailed discussion of goal setting, see chapter 8 of our book, Beyond Addiction.)
- Identify possible obstacles. Next, identify potential obstacles that could get in the way of completing your task. By anticipating problems you can plan strategies for dealing with them. This can include specific, predictable obstacles as well as a more general awareness that unforeseen challenges may arise, which can lend you some emotional resilience in dealing with them.
- Address each obstacle. Design specific strategies to cope with each obstacle. Not just, “I’m sure I can deal with it,” but exactly how you will get past it and move forward.
- See how things go. After you’ve carried out your plan, evaluate the process … How did it go? Look at what went well and what was more challenging in the implementation. Did your strategies for dealing with obstacles work well? Did obstacles come up that you hadn’t predicted? Is there anything you would do differently next time? This is how you figure out what works and what doesn’t work for you.
[Adapted from pp.187-190 in: Smith, J., & Myers, R. (2004). Motivating substance abusers to enter treatment: working with family members. New York: Guilford Press.]
The post How to Solve a Problem (Including Your Child’s Substance Use) appeared first on Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.
The best way to find out what is going on with your child is to, well, find out what’s going on with him. Lecturing won’t get you there. A back-and-forth conversation will. But that’s not always so easy with teens, is it?
In order to keep the lines of communication open it’s important to know how to listen and when to talk. Here are 10 tips to help:
1. Create a safe, comfortable environment for your child to share the truth. Assure your child that he can always be honest with you – without fear of ridicule or blame. And that you love him no matter what.
2. Turn off all smartphones and other electronics and don’t allow any interruptions during your conversation.
3. Listen to your child vent. Sometimes she just needs to complain and get things off her chest. She’ll feel better afterward.
4. Rephrase your teen’s comments to show him you’ve heard what he’s saying or give nonverbal support and encouragement by nodding and smiling. You can also say, “I know what you mean” or “I understand” or “I feel that way sometimes, too.”
5. Be attentive for topics that lead into drugs or alcohol. For example, if your teen describes someone at school who is “always high” or mentions a celebrity who has gone to rehab, ask your teen what she thinks about those people or their behavior.
6. Focus completely on your child and try to see things from your child’s point of view. This will help you sympathize with his situation.
7. Be aware that your child could be hiding his true feelings out of fear, embarrassment or something else. Be careful not to just take what the child says at face value. Gently question her if things don’t seem quite right to you.
8. Listen between the words. Pay attention to body language, facial expressions, eye contact, difficulty finding the right words to use, distractions, etc.
9. Recognize and confess when you don’t have the energy to be a good listener and agree to restart the conversation (as long as it isn’t dire) at a later, better time.
10. Be positive. Everyone loves a compliment — even your teen. Show your support by using encouraging words, pointing out good behaviors and actions as well as simply saying, “I’m proud of you” — even if it’s for something small.
11. Don’t feel you have to jump in and fill every lull. It’s okay to have long pauses and moments of silence during your conversation. In fact, it may help things sink in a bit. And you never know, you’re teen may suddenly pipe in with a brilliant insight, a profound reflection or even a juicy secret.
How do you get your teen to open up?