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Turning Family Problems
into Learning Experiences

Many family problems seem overwhelming. Although families have different ways of resolving conflicts, some families are able to turn the conflict into a learning opportunity.

Researchers have found that to really learn something new, it is valuable to go back and make sense of what happened. This allows us to review, examine our feelings, and think about other situations. This process is called experiential learning. It has five basic steps that are easy to learn. It can also help you turn some difficult family conflicts into learning activities. In fact, when you become good at using the experiential process, you can turn almost any activity or game into a learning activity.

The experiential learning process will help each person, whether a child or adult, identify key questions to ask and provide a good sequence to maximize the learning process.

Steps in the Experiential Learning Process

Experience (Do it): Experience the problem / activity.

Share: Stop and have each person talk about what they experienced. Share reactions and observations. Ask questions such as: how did you feel doing this activity? What was the hardest part? The easiest? What did you like best? Least? What did you learn about yourself? About our family?

Process: Discuss themes, problems and issues. Look for recurring themes and record them. Some questions might include: Were there common or similar themes with more than one family member? Did most of us agree? Disagree? Why? Why Not? Did other family members' responses tend to influence you?

Generalize: Identify trends and conclusions reached in your family. Emphasize principles that apply to "real life." Focus on what is important to your family. Some questions might be: How does this problem relate to other things in our family? What conclusions come from this discussion? What are important outcomes?

Apply: Concentrate on how the new learning can be applied to everyday situations. Discuss how this family discussion can be useful in the future. Develop personal or family goals for behavior change. Some questions might be: What are specific family situations where new learning might be used? How do family members think their conclusions might be different five years from now?

If possible, encourage family members to raise questions among themselves that relate specifically to the conflict or problem, concentrating on how their conclusions can improve your family.

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