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When Teens Lack Motivation - Brandi Walker Ph D.

June 29, 2024 12:49 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Q:  “Our teen, who has ADHD, lacks the motivation for doing schoolwork and other tasks that are necessary for living independently. How should we handle this?”

It’s not uncommon for teens with ADHD to lose their motivation for a variety of reasons. For some kids, certain tasks might be too hard, too easy, or just boring. Maybe it’s difficult getting organized and started in the first place, let alone having to focus and sustain their attention, and use their working memory — common challenges for the ADHD brain.

5 Lack of Motivation Solutions

I recommend the following steps to any caregiver looking to help their teen on the path to independent living.

1. Reset

Although you might be frustrated, worried, or imagining the worst outcomes (e.g., my child will never move out), pause that thought process. The best way to support your teen is to withhold judgment. Make sure not to project your emotions and fears onto them.

2. Observe

What are your teen’s strengths, talents, qualities, interests, and passions? What do they get right? Acknowledge and validate their efforts. Then, observe their areas of weakness. Think about small ways to help them become more accountable and responsible. For example, allow them to determine the nutritious foods you’ll need for your household within a weekly budget. These management skills apply to various essential tasks.

3. Listen

Communicate authentically, respectfully, and transparently. Temper your emotions to create an atmosphere where your teen can speak honestly about their challenges and self-perceptions. Sometimes, what we perceive as a teen’s indifference, resistance, or laziness may actually be anxiety, fear, or lack of confidence. Try to understand and address what’s really interfering with their pursuit of autonomy.

4. Collaborate

Once the issues are identified, discuss opportunities that allow your teen to grow and thrive at something they are naturally good at or are passionately interested in. Many career and educational paths lead to success. Build a plan with small, actionable steps that lead your teen to their desired goals. Helping a teen see these as achievable reinvigorates their motivation and commitment.

5. Inspire

Your teen’s support team includes mentors, coaches, school advisors, career counselors, therapists, and other adults who can provide inspiration from different perspectives. Encourage your teen to connect with their trusted advisors as they navigate the transition to independence.

Brandi Walker, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, who is working on a research study at the Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Liberty in North Carolina.

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