“My son rarely showers,” “My daughter will be graduating soon and won’t look into colleges,” and “He never does his homework;” are common complaints that many parents share about their teens.
While nearly all teens experience days when they’re less motivated than usual, there is usually an underlying reason for teens who are consistently apathetic and unmotivated.
Continual procrastination, avoidance, and lack of motivation are often the result of more complicated issues:
Boredom – Boredom can sometimes manifest into a lack of motivation. For example, a teen who doesn’t have goals or activities that excite them may not do the tasks that need to get done.
Anxiety – Anxiety can lead to an overall absence of happiness, which can cause a teen to feel become apathetic.
Disconnection – The pandemic has caused some teens to lose connection with peers and passion for activities they once enjoyed. Feelings of disconnection and being unmotivated can go hand-in-hand.
Depression – Teens who are depressed often feel unmotivated, fatigued, and have anhedonia (lack of pleasure in things previously enjoyed).
Fear of failure – Sometimes, teens with low self-esteem choose not to make an effort because they’re afraid they will appear inadequate if they try.
Ways Parents Can Help
The Three E’s (Empathy, Empowerment, and Engagement) can be very beneficial in helping parents connect with their kids and get to the bottom of underlying issues. It is essential to remain calm when having these meaningful discussions with your teen. If you’re angry, try taking a few moments to get your emotions under control before starting a conversation. When you talk with your teen, ask open-ended questions, don’t assume, and try to listen with an open mind.
Encourage your teen to go to school if they are not sick. According to data provided to The LA Times in mid-March, LAUSD’s chronic absentee rate (one of the largest school districts in the nation), has been at 46% this school year. Chronic absenteeism can affect teens academically and emotionally.
You can help your teen develop self-awareness by teaching mindfulness and self-regulation (understanding and managing their reactions to emotions).
Encourage your teen to set healthy boundaries, create personal and collective goals (ones that matter to them), and practice self-compassion.
Let your teen know that they have the power to move forward. Your teen may find hope when you help them discover attributes they may not realize they have.
Practice chronicling (thinking back to how they got through other challenges in the past).
Help your teen find a new focus, like a hobby or an exciting goal.
Let your teen know that they are not alone and that you’re there to support them.
Teach your teen not to be overly critical of themselves, accept mistakes, and use them as teaching moments.
Encourage your teen to step out of their comfort zone by doing things that may benefit them and be scary.
Seek professional help if nothing that you or your teen tries seems to work. Therapists can help promote social-emotional learning and teach strategies that a teen can use in many aspects of their life to help them more successfully handle difficult situations and address anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and more.