As a father of five (5), I understand that living with teenagers can be one of the most exciting periods in a parent’s life. It is exciting to watch our children grow into young adults with different/separate views, hopes and ambitions from ours. I personally find it fascinating and interesting when I meet their friends, observe and get challenged by their ideas and thought process. Their vitality and energy is infectious and many parents enjoy the stimulation of living with teenagers. We sometimes (although with a level of difficultly), accept the moods swings and angry outbursts as part of the whole mixed ‘growing up’ package and more often than not, forget that we have lived through it ourselves.
Balancing the need to be able to support our children constructively and imaginatively, without being sucked into their problems is a challenge. However, for many parents it’s a much rougher ride when our young adults make us feel that we’ve ‘got it all wrong’, and don’t understand…….it can be hurtful and undermining. The most conscientious of parents can lose sight of the good feelings they once had about themselves as parents as some parents get so frightened and overwhelmed by the difficulties of adolescence that they miss out on the good times.
Does your young adult seem completely unmotivated? For parents of young adults, the refrains of, “Whatever,” and “I don’t care,” can become all too familiar. Some of the issues we as parents face include:
- Lack of direction and self-positioning
- Confusion – what do I want to do with my life?; what next steps should I take?
- Lack of motivation
- Reliance on the virtual world ‘Video gaming etc’
- Falling behind at school
- Learning challenges
- Lack of concentration and procrastination
- Substance abuse
- Anger issues
- Sloth and self-entitlement
- Sleeping problems
- Low self-esteem
Although good parenting is central and key to a young adult feeling connected and safe, let’s not make this just about the parents! This is certainly a mistake I have made as a parent! While today’s teenagers and young adults are more scheduled and pressured than ever, they are also coming of age in a world where setting aside time to teach and foster healthy human connections, creativity and self-knowledge is low on the priority list.
I sometimes wish someone had sat me down and helped me through challenging teenage times. Seeking answers to questions such as:
- ‘What do I want to do with my life?’
- How do I stand out or even just position myself?
- How do I navigate through the education system to understand what works for me
- How do I fit in?
It’s not about giving them the answers but more about helping them discover the answers. Coaching is not meant to be an alternative to parenting; Young adults are developmentally wired to pull away from their parents and it is healthy for them to do so. Where, then, can they go to learn strategies that work for them if they are not talking to their parents? Finding themselves when it’s time to make the transition from secondary school; introduction into the work environment, starting and maintaining relationships – these are all milestones and activities to juggle without a real understanding of how to self-regulate, plan or problem-solve. Coaching provides an opportunity to rebuild this resilience — or grow it from scratch if needed.
Whether a teen / young adult is gifted, an underachiever or someone who is learning challenged, filled with anxiety or anger or just simply trying to find their way, we can help. If they lack motivation, or are simply stuck in a pattern that does not lead to success, we can help. Then there is the question of the young adult who does well at school but are in danger of ending up in a job that does not match their potential upon leaving school or graduating from University.
It is important to empower young adults to:
- Find their personal power,
- gain the confidence to grow on a day-to-day basis,
- learn to achieve their greatest successes by thinking outside of the box and
- reduce anxiety that can sometimes lead to addiction in teenagers and/or depression in young adults.
Many teenagers or young adults are suffering from teen depression and/or teen anxiety, and these challenges can lead to depression and anxiety into young adulthood.
It is important to empower our young people to create small daily successes in their lives that encourage them to embrace success from a new perspective. This is all done through a simple daily schedule system that builds on success that may help decrease depression, anxiety and addiction.
What should we as parents do when our teenager/ young adult lacks motivation?
There has to be something within your teenagers and young adults that pushes them past the inconveniences, the shortcomings, and the hiccups that will, without question, arise when they undertake something that’s challenging. So it’s important for them to understand why they want to do something, not just that they have to do it.
If you’re the parent of a teen/ young adult, you know how much they like to debate and question things. Sometimes that’s a pain, but I think it’s actually okay to a point. Here’s something I’ve come to understand from personal experience as a teen: ‘When they finally understand how something benefits them, they will do it long term’. If the reason your teenager/ young adult does something is only because it’s important to you, that is short term motivation and will end. The reason also needs to be important to your teenager/ young adult, not just important to you. If your teenager is doing well at school because they want to make you happy, eventually that’s probably going to stop. They need to have a personal reason ‘WHY’.
It’s very unlikely that you have a teenager that is 100% lazy and unmotivated. What’s more likely is that in a few areas that drive you crazy as a parent, they are lazy and unmotivated. This was true for me. As a teenager, in certain periods of my life, I wasn’t focused on my academics, but I was 100% committed to martial arts and would practice for hours. Clearly I had the ability to be disciplined and to work hard at something – so what I would say is, find an area where your teenager/ young adult is motivated: Where are they committed? Have a conversation with them about that.
It’s okay for your teenager to say, “I hate doing certain things, or I’m not good at this.” Those are fine things to express. And you don’t need to say, “No you don’t.” We all have subjects that we gravitate towards a little more. That’s not what needs to be focus on. What you do need to focus on is “I understand that you don’t like it, but how can you succeed at this?” Again, to them, it’s a valid feeling when they say, “I’m not good at this. This is hard. I hate it.” In my opinion, a good response is, “I have no problem with you hating it, but I do have a problem with you quitting.”
There’s a lot of pressure on a teenager, and many of them get anxious or feel overwhelmed with everything they have to do. To a certain degree, teenagers are not allowed to be teenagers these days. Sometimes they really are overscheduled hence it’s pretty realistic that they feel overwhelmed in some cases. It is important to help teenagers make positive goals and then make sure the things that they are saying yes or no to match up with that.
We are in an age of mass media, generated by marketing, advertising, and technology which means that many teenagers are raised with excessive electronics and lack of community. It’s important that we have a lot of compassion for the fast-paced environment that many of our teenagers/ young adults are growing up in, that is their generation afterall!
This means being very forgiving when our young adults feel that they want to advance and develop quicker than we think is appropriate.
At Lloyds Counselling service we provide teenage/young adult life coaching which provides an independent way for them to get in touch with what they are looking for such as:
- what do I want?
- how do I focus on getting things done
- do I want to go to university?
- what university should I go to?
- interviews for jobs
“Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential”. Bruce Lee