In my last blog I briefly mentioned Ross Greene’s work on Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (formerly Collaborative Problem Solving.) Find out how to use CPS with your child and how this can help your family as a whole.
What it is
Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS) means just that – working together to solve problems. Parents can partner with their children to prioritize issues to address. This means that parents get input from the child and the child feels part of the process. The child can assist in identification of the problem as well as help come up with possible solutions.
How it works
CPS is a matter of prioritization. Even though family caregivers may feel like there are many issues to be addressed, they can’t work on everything at once. Issues involving safety and health, for example, running out into the street, need to be addressed first. Steps to using CPS include:
1. Empathy (plus reassurance)
2. Define the Problem
A simple example (adapted from NAMI Basics-see Resources) could be when the child leaves a mess after eating.
Step 1 Empathy:
Parent: “Most times you do clean up and I am very grateful when you do. I will try harder to mention those times to you.”
Step 2 Define the Problem:
Parent: “Ok, I understand that sometimes we all forget. My concern is that we have an ant problem in the house and I worry this will get worse.”
Step 3 Invitation:
Parent: “What can we do to help you remember to clean up?”
Then brainstorm on possible solutions like putting up a sign, and if the child agrees, problem solved! Together, discuss all possible solutions and why they will or won’t work.
Why it works
Dr. Greene believes that “children will do well if they can.” This means that your child is doing the best s/he can with the skills s/he has. Sometimes it’s not a matter of compliance, but a skills issue. This means that the child simply doesn’t have the skills needed yet. Again, it is important that parents recognize that all behavior is communication and sometimes the only way children can communicate is by acting out. The overwhelmed or nonverbal child may only be able to cry or scream or run away from a situation that is too much for him/her. The key is to teach appropriate replacement behaviors and effective communication skills. By involving the child in working on this together, the child will “buy into” problem solving since s/he will have a choice about what to work on and how to fix it.
CPS will help family caregivers to “pick their battles” and let the rest go until the larger issues are resolved. For more detailed information, see the one page factsheet at http://www.livesinthebalance.org/sites/default/files/One%20Page%20CPS%2011-12-12_3.pdf
Ross Greene’s website including books “The Explosive Child” and “Lost at School”
National Alliance on Mental Illness-Basics classes for families
Lauren Agoratus is a parent/advocate who works for the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network and serves as the NJ Coordinator for Family Voices (www.spanadvocacy.org), a national network that works to “keep families at the center of children’s healthcare” at www.familyvoices.org or FB www.facebook.com/pages/Family-Voices-Inc-National/137783182902269. She also serves as NJ representative supporting caregivers across the lifespan for the Caregiver Action Network (formerly National Family Caregivers Association) in a volunteer capacity at http://caregiveraction.org/ or FB www.facebook.com/CaregiverActionNetwork.