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Family Problem Solving

Sharon M. Danes, Extension Specialist and Professor — Family Social Science

Revised July 2009 by the author

When people are ready to talk about family issues or conflicts, two essential ingredients are needed. First, there needs to be a willingness to work toward solutions. Second, there must be agreement that there is a problem and what the problem is.

Following are suggestions that can be followed during a decision process.

  • First, discuss and clarify how each person views the situation or problem.
  • Then suggest each person make a commitment to the problem and think about solutions.
  • Third, give each person a chance to state his or her priority values and particular needs. An hour or two, or a day later consider the alternatives.
  • Finally, examine the possible solutions to discover if you are willing to accept the results of one or another of the alternatives. There is an agreement when there is a goal for action and a willingness to follow through by committing time, money, and human energy to the action plan. Or, from this session you may need to re-clarify the problem, thus going back to step one. Have a trial period. This can be less threatening than a hard and fast decision. If there isn't a willingness to work on solutions to the problem, then you can only address the situation in ways that you can control. You can adjust your view, your involvement, or your reaction to the situation.

Successful social decisions bring people closer together and improve future communication. For more information call a family counselor, spiritual advisor, or mental health service provider.


Danes, S.M. (1986). Solving Family Problems Involves Social Decision Making. University of Minnesota Item Number FS-3104. This publication is no longer available.

You may also be interested in Grief and Crisis Decisions and Tips for Talking with Your Childrens' Other Parent.


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