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How Do We Prepare Our Kids to Handle the Unexpected?

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New parents spend a lot of time preparing for issues that may arise when it comes to their children. But it's also important to begin preparing your kids to handle situations on their own. We want our children to grow up to be strong teens and adults who can deal with anything life throws at them, even if we wouldn't necessarily know how to do so ourselves. And since you won't always be there to assess and manage a situation, teaching your child to do so is critical.

When Do We Start Teaching Our Kids to Manage Tough Situations?

According to Scholastic, 4-year-olds can begin cooperating when problem-solving and can see situations from the perspective of others. By ages 5 or 6, children are already able to solve problems using examples in their environments and even share methods of problem-solving with others.

As a parent, it seems we should start showing our problem-solving methods to children even when they're toddlers and may have trouble grasping larger issues. Personally, I know there are still situations I wouldn't know how to address immediately, but by showing my daughter how to approach the problem initially, she'll have a better handle on how to start breaking down an issue.

For example, I recently read about an alligator taking over a homeowner's swimming pool in Florida and realized I wouldn't know where to begin solving that problem. Do you call the police to report the issue as a hazard? I assume animal control would get the alligator out, but what about cleaning up? Is this a situation my homeowners insurance would cover, and would reporting it raise my rates?

Of course, this is a strange situation, but it clarified that even as adults it can be challenging to know where exactly to start with an unexpected issue. Giving my daughter the tools to better approach problems early will allow her to be a much more confident and capable adult, as she'll have years of practice with these skills.

How Do We Teach Problem-Solving and Prevention Strategies?

Kids learn from witnessing both causes and effects, particularly at a younger age, as well as observing how others handle problems. Allowing your child to witness cause and effect in a more hazardous or potentially costly situation, such as letting them touch a hot stove to see what happens, doesn't generally make sense. Parents practice a wide range of problem-prevention strategies to specifically make sure these "effects" don't impact their families. But we can try to illustrate the potential consequences of seemingly minor problem-prevention tactics.

For instance, every month we pay a bill for homeowners insurance and take steps to keep our house maintained. We can talk to our kids about what can happen if we fail to do so. If we don't clean out the gutters, and leaves catch on fire and burn down the house, not only would we have to live elsewhere while the house was fixed, but the average homeowners claim for fire and lightning damage is more than $50,000. Talking about the consequences to our lives can help a child understand the practical reasons for taking these preventive measures and make them less abstract.

When it comes to actual unexpected problems, not hypothetical ones, we can also try to verbalize and illustrate our problem-solving approach while downplaying our complaints about an issue. For example, if my car's bumper was dented while in the grocery store parking lot, I wouldn't want my child to take away my complaining about the annoyance or other driver. Instead, I'd want them to see how I discuss the issue with the other driver, limit the negative impact by getting their insurance information and documenting the damage, and then see the benefit after our car is fixed.

This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we're all in this together.