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Emotion Regulation and Distress Tolerance Strategies for Teens: Problem Solving

by Ruby Jamil
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After you have let your teen know that you hear them, their feelings matter, and you want to understand (see previous blogs on Self-Soothing and Validation), you can move on to offer help with problem solving.

Identify what the root of the problem is based on what your teen is saying. Help problem solve using a line of questioning that encourages the teen to use their rational brain. For example, some questions you might ask include:

  • What are the facts of the situation, the things we know for sure (versus fears or opinions)?
  • Is this a situation where there is something that can be changed, or a problem you want to solve? (Sometimes emotional support or comfort is what is needed rather than problem solving).
  • Is there another way of looking at it?
  • What would someone else say about it?
  • What advice would I give a friend in this situation?

Once you have brainstormed some possible options or solutions, you can help them look at the pros and cons of each and choose a strategy or action to try. Even if the solution doesn’t work out, make sure to praise your teen for making an effort to deal with emotions and problems.

Parenting a teen can be both challenging and rewarding. Remember parents, you are key in helping your teen achieve mental wellbeing. However, if you notice your teen’s concerning mood stays for a long period of time (e.g., prolonged sadness, anxiety, anger), it’s a good idea to check in with a mental health professional for guidance.