Magazine article Work & Family Life

Will U.S. High School Students Pay Attention to This Year's Elections?

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Will U.S. High School Students Pay Attention to This Year's Elections?

Article excerpt

What do parents of children between the ages of 8 and 12 worry about as their kids move to middle school? They're concerned that their kids will make a smooth adjustment to a new school, do well academically, make good friends, stay away from the bad crowd, reject violence as a solution and not become a victim of violence.

Ifyou ask fifth graders, they'll tell you they're worried about being picked on by bullies. They want to be able to stand up for themselves and not be pressured into drinking or using drugs. Preteens are aware of the problems teenagers are dealing with and they know that they will soon face similar situations-in school, at home and with their friends.

During the middle years, children are very attached to their parents, open for guidance and eager for help. This is a short window of time, but one wide enough to enable parents and teachers to have an impact on the kind of teenagers children will become.

The problem-solving approach

In my research I've found a crucial link between emotional well-being and the ability to solve problems. How then do we help our kids become socially well-adjusted and emotionally competent so they can resolve everyday conflicts and make good choices about their lives as they approach the preteen and teen years? I believe we can do this with the "I Can Problem Solve" (ICPS) approach which is based on the following five skills:

1 Understanding another's feelings and point of view. This enables children to appreciate that everyone may not think and feel the same way about things.

2 Understanding motives. This makes kids aware that there may be reasons that propel people to do what they do at a given moment and reasons beneath the surface that underlie behavior over time.

3 Finding alternative solutions. This encourages children to think of all their options.

4 Considering consequences. This encourages kids to think ahead.

5 sequenced planning. This helps children anticipate potential obstacles and understand that problem solving takes time-and that some times are better than others for taking action.

Why this approach works

Children who master these skills are likely to be more resilient, better able to cope with frustration, more cooperative and better able to both stand up for themselves and get along well with their peers. Emotionally and socially competent kids can think of different ways to solve problems rather than acting impulsively or giving up if the first attempt fails.

Good problem solvers have a "can do" attitude. They feel as if they can make things happen, rather than experiencing the world as a place in which things happen to them.

The problem-solving approach involves children in the process of thinking about what they are doing and why. For example, instead of saying, "Your brother feels sad when you hit him," Jeffs father might ask, "How do you think your brother feels when you hit him?" A key to this approach is to ask your children to tell you how they feel about something instead of telling them how you think they feel.

Getting started

Even though 8-to-12-year-olds may know some or all of the "feeling words" they will need to help them solve problems, they don't always think of them in the heat of conflict. Therefore, it's a good idea to practice using some words that help children think about how they feel and then how others feel. …

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