Teach Your Child Creative Problem Solving!
The summer is a great time to learn new skills while having fun. Children and teens that experience the challenges that can come along with ADHD and anxiety sometimes push through their challenges without really noticing how they are doing it. They put on a strong and brave front, but internally are working very hard! Some grind day after day internally wishing things were easier and some keep trying day after day rarely seeing the benefits of their hard work.
Because these children experience and feel the world deeply and sometimes this gets in the way of thinking logically.
Working on problem solving skills in the summer can build templates in the brain for working through future challenges. Whether there are problems to be solved at camp, with neighborhood friends, at work, doing summer chores or school work, the opportunities for strengthening the brain are endless.
Here is an example that we are pretty sure you can relate to!
Alex is 14 and is incredibly forgetful. During the school year he loses coats, water bottles, sports equipment, and school assignments. During the summer the same challenges follow him to his job at a camp. Each day he needs to bring a towel, sunscreen, sunglasses, his lunch, water bottle, and a hat. This is actually kind of a lot to keep track of for anyone, nevermind if there are executive functioning challenges. Oftentimes, children don’t notice when they put something down and walk away–not realizing it until they need it the next day.
This is a classic example of how the ADHD brain can be disorganized and have no awareness in the moment. Think about it, if your brain is moving super fast and is on to the “next” thing, why would you pay attention to when you go inside, put your sunglasses down, and then walk away, never even thinking about it because the next activity is an indoor one.
In order to create a solution, the brain needs to be able to problem solve which is a real challenge for those with anxiety or ADHD due to weakened executive functioning skills. Although the brain knows it needs to remember, it just can’t stay “in the moment” or think of another way to do things. This is where creative problem solving comes into play. Creative problem solving brings in the senses and our own brain’s unique way of seeing the world. It jump starts the learning process.
Here is what Alex did!
Alex decided to try out some creative problem solving and we started with the question, “Is there anything Alex can do differently to literally keep things on his body at all times?” For the sunglasses, he decided he should either get the strap that holds the glasses around his neck when he isn’t wearing them or hang them off of the neckline of his shirt. #1 Rule – Do not put them down!
Alex was very good at visualizing, so the second creative problem solving strategy was a combination of chunking and mind mapping. First, Alex thought about how many things he needed to remember each day and there were five things. Five was a good number for Alex because he could use his hand as a way to think about what the items were. He used a top down approach to figure out the order.
That meant thumb=hat, index finder=sunglasses with strap, middle finger=towel, ring finger=sunscreen, pinky=lunch. The next step was for Alex to visualize himself leaving his house in the morning with everything he needed and leaving camp at the end of the day with everything he needed. He realized that he still needed something to keep everything together. He had a drawstring bag with his favorite sports team logo on it and his plan was if it wasn’t on his body, it was in his bag.
The combination of the use of different senses helped Alex’s brain anchor what it was that he needed to remember. Things became even more solidified when he had the occasional day of forgetting because he could trace back where he went off track and could self correct the next day. A pathway was created in his brain from the repetition of using his new strategies.
Your child or teen can do the same thing! This summer, think creative problem solving and help your child build their own lifelong strategies.
Don’t forget our Free Parenting Webinar on How to Communicate with Your Anxious Child is on July 25th at 7 pm EST. Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org a Yes and we will add you to the guest list!