Becoming a parent is a major life change that often brings up issues and situations for which there are no definite right or wrong solutions.

Problem solving is a skill that helps you when a difficult situation arises. It gives you a process for thinking through options, trying out possible solutions, and revising the game plan as needed to figure out what will really work for you, your partner and baby.

4 Step approach

This approach assumes that every problem has a solution – and sometimes many solutions – that you can identify through thoughtful trial and error testing.

Here are 4 steps that you can follow to help solve problems successfully:

  1. Identify the problem.
  2. Think about several possible solutions to solve the problem (brainstorming).
  3. Pick a solution and test it.
  4. Evaluate if the solution is working. If it isn’t working, try another one.

1. Identify the problem

It is important to be able to clearly describe the problem in order to figure out a way to solve it. Become your own sleuth by asking yourself the questions any good detective would ask:

  • Who
  • What
  • When and
  • Where that describes the problem.

Your answers to these questions may help you describe your problem.

Keep in mind that your role in the problem can greatly influence how you perceive the role of others. If you’re stressed out, it could look to you as if others are, too. Or you may find that you tend to blame others as the source of your problems. Or the opposite may be true: you may feel guilty about your role in the problem when, in fact, other people may also be contributing to the problem.

Consider the following example problem:¬†Imagine a number of nights when your baby seemed to be unable to stop crying and settle for a long sleep. You feel like you’ve tried everything. You don’t know whether this is normal, but you are finding it stressful. You and your partner are snapping at each other. Does this seem familiar?

2. Think about possible solutions

Consider the example problem situation of a a baby who is hard to settle to sleep at night and who wakes often. Now think about possible solutions that could help solve that problem situation. You may find it helpful to write your solutions down.

Now take a look at the following ideas to see if you want to add any of these ideas to yours.

  • Talk with an expert about possible reasons for your baby’s being a baby hard to settle to sleep at night and who wakes often (your doctor, 24-hour help line, hospital, nurse, online resources)
  • Consider using different strategies to calm your baby
    • walk in a pram
    • give baby warm bath
    • use a dummy
    • wrap baby and walk around
    • hold your baby in different positions
  • Take turns with your partner in dealing with baby
  • Have a friend/family member come over to help
  • Ask visitors to avoid coming over in the evening
  • Pre-prepare meals to take the stress out of the evening
  • Take turns with your partner to rest when you can to help you both cope with the stress of evening time

3. Pick a solution and test it

Before you try out a possible solution, it is helpful to think about the advantages and disadvantages of different things you can do to solve your problem. Consider how well each possible solution meets your main goal. Using the example: “Will this solution help me reach my goal to feel well and relaxed and have a settled baby’?”

Maybe you can think of some ways you can make a possible solution even better. Or you might decide to drop a possible solution if it doesn’t seem practical or likely to succeed.

Then go ahead and pick one solution that you want to test.

At this point it helps to take a little time to develop a test plan. For example, before you start your test it is helpful to let others in your household know that you are trying a new way of addressing the problem. Let them know beforehand how long you will be trying out this possible solution. And be mindful of how your solution may affect you, others around you including, of course, your baby. Some solutions are best worked out together with your partner.

4. Evaluate if solution is working (If not, try another one)

Being a parent is all about “trial and error” learning. So, it’s very important to resist giving up should your trial solution not work straight away. Try to resist the temptation to become frustrated and disillusioned.

But if you are not making the progress you hoped for, or if you notice an undue burden as a result of testing your solution, it is probably time to think about trying another solution.

Keep in mind, these problem-solving steps are not magic or automatic; and their order can be changed to fit your needs. They provide a practical structure for working through solutions for your problems. You may even find out that the problem you thought you had was actually some different problem or even more than one problem! Breaking complex problems into smaller, solvable pieces can be a very successful problem-solving approach.

Sometimes a problem cannot be easily tackled, or you feel you don’t have the resources to tackle it just now. In such cases, you may decide that the most realistic solution is for you to accept the situation and resource yourself and learn to cope with it for a while.

It’s worth saying that not all problems have a practical solution that you want to take and sometimes it is helpful to listen and think about the situation that is causing distress. For some problems you may need to empathise with others who may be stressed and find out more about it before jumping into problem solving. Many couples report that the opportunity to talk about and share a problem is very validating.

For example:

  1. Situation:
    Baby has not slept all day and was up at night
  2. Response that acknowledges the impact of the situation on you and your partner:
    Wow that must have been hard for you. I’m also finding it hard.
  3. Thinking about solutions:
    What do you think we should do about it?
    Well, we could do 1. 2. 3.

Finally, remember to keep your sense of humour. Humour is a great tension reliever!

We hope you enjoyed this article. It is one of the many support articles in the DadBooster online program. For more great tips and strategies, give DadBooster a go.