Sickle cell disease: Positive and negative approaches to problem solving

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Learn about positive and negative approaches to problem solving and the possible outcomes of each approach.

Key points

  • A negative approach to problem solving makes it more difficult to solve problems and can increase stress and worry.
  • Negative approaches include blaming yourself, avoiding problems and trying to solve a problem without thinking it through.
  • A positive approach, centering on optimism, is an important first step to solving problems effectively.
  • Positive approaches include seeing problems as normal, inevitable events in your life; thinking of a problem as an opportunity to learn; and remembering that a problem is something that can be solved.

On the previous page, Sickle cell disease: The value of learning problem-solving skills, you learned that the ways you think about problems can influence the way you cope with them and how much stress they cause you. This page goes into more detail about what negative and positive approaches to problem solving look like and how they affect outcomes.

Negative approaches to problem solving

A negative approach to problem solving includes:

  • blaming yourself for causing a problem
  • avoiding problems because you do not believe you can solve them
  • trying to solve a problem too quickly without thinking it through

Negative approaches make it more difficult to solve problems and often cause increased stress and worry.

Example of a negative approach to problem solving

Sasha is the mother of 15-year-old Monique. Monique has missed a lot of her freshman year of high school because of hospital visits and pain. The teachers at Monique’s school have asked for a meeting to discuss her grades and attendance.

“I’m worried that I’ll be seen as a bad mother because I didn’t always remember to tell the school when Monique would not be there. As a result, I’ve been ignoring the school’s meeting requests. This makes me feel worse because I know I’m not solving the problem. In fact, I am contributing to it, which makes me feel worse. But I don’t want to get myself or Monique in trouble.”

Sasha was both blaming herself and ignoring the problem. Both of these behaviours were likely to continue to make her feel stressed. They definitely would not help to solve the problem of Monique’s grades and attendance.

Think of some problems where you used a negative approach. How did that affect how you handled the problem? Did it make things better or worse?

Positive approaches to problem solving

A positive approach to problem solving includes thinking about problems as:

  • normal, ordinary, inevitable events in your life
  • challenges or opportunities to learn
  • things that can be addressed with a solution
  • things that take time and effort to solve

This positive approach to solving problems is an important first step in becoming an effective problem solver. You can also see how this approach centres on optimism.

Using the same example as before, take a look at a more positive way Sasha could approach the problem of Monique’s school attendance.

“Even though I’m worried about meeting with the school, I know that it’s common for kids with sickle cell disease to miss school because of hospital stays or clinic appointments. I don’t know how to solve the problem of attendance and grades right now, but maybe the teachers have some solutions to try. Monique has another three years of high school to get through. I want her to have the best chance at a successful future, so I’m willing to try different things to help her.”

By taking a different, more positive, approach, Sasha was able to realize that school difficulties can be a normal part of life for a child with sickle cell disease and that she has a community of people at school willing to help both her and her daughter.

Last updated: February 26th 2024