It’s a tale as old as time. One year, your child is enthusiastic about school, excited about their extracurricular activities, and full of energy. Then they enter middle school, and they seem to lose all that energy and focus they once possessed. They might complain about their teachers, turn in late assignments, and ask to drop out of the clubs and hobbies they once enjoyed. Parents beware: adolescence is upon you.
You might be understandably concerned by these changes in your child’s behavior and motivation. Why do children go through this tough time as they transition from kids to young adults? Take heart in the fact that this experience is almost universal. Most parents have to deal with their child’s waning motivation at some point during adolescence.
At Advanced Psychiatry DFW, we help children and adolescents who require medication to treat their depression, ADHD, or behavioral issues. Our caring nurse practitioners are trained to listen and observe. They take a collaborative approach to recovery, giving you an active role in your child’s treatment plan.
Most adolescent growing pains do not require medication; they just need some understanding and a few coping strategies. Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons why teens and tweens lose their motivation, and how you can help them get it back.
Puberty is a struggle for many adolescents. Their bodies go through a number of changes. Girls get their periods and boys start growing facial hair. Acne happens. As if those things aren’t challenging enough, they reach sexual maturity during this awkward stage. A lot of kids stop focusing on their school work and start focusing on how others — particularly those of the opposite sex — perceive them. It’s hard to concentrate on a science project when your head is swimming with hormones and insecurities, so grades might start to slip as priorities change.
School and Social Pressure
Kids are expected to do a lot of growing up between elementary school and middle school, and some of them might be overwhelmed by the additional workload and responsibilities they face. Their teachers now treat them like young adults rather than children, and they are expected to behave as such. Their actions have more academic consequences than ever before. Many become jaded when they realize how hard it is to maintain A’s and B’s in some classes, and shift their focus to being “cool” and hanging out with the “right” crowd.
Is this age of sound bytes and fast-moving media, kids can become bored and disengaged if something can’t hold their interest. They may feel that if a class or assignment isn’t exciting, it must be boring and unworthy of their attention. They don’t realize that there is value in paying attention, even when the subject isn’t exactly riveting. Sustained effort is what ultimately leads to success. Kids with short attention spans may need help learning this lesson and taking it to heart.
How to Motivate Them
Adolescence is a time when the reward-seeking part of the brain is working overtime. Some kids respond to this shift by engaging in risky behaviors, like experimenting with drugs and alcohol. If you can steer them toward seeking positive rewards, you might be surprised by how motivated they become with just a little success and praise.
Model Good Behavior. Teens might act like they’re ignoring you, but they notice more than you realize. If you consistently work hard, keep your word, and try new and positive experiences, they will, too.
Find Their Strengths. Every teen is good at something. It could be math, music, acting, sports, or volunteering. Give them the opportunity to find their strength and build on it to improve their confidence and help them find their identity.
Praise Their Efforts. If your child works hard to accomplish something, don’t let it go without praise. Be vocal. Brag about them to your friends and family members while your child can hear. Your praise is a huge reward, much more important than you might realize. They will seek it out by engaging in the behaviors that helped them earn it.
Be a Good Listener. Your child is becoming an adult, and their fears and concerns are different now than they were in grade school. Listen to them without judgement when they come to you for advice and take them seriously if they tell you they are anxious or depressed.
Manage Your Expectations. It can be hard to watch your straight-A student struggle to keep their grades up. Sometimes they are simply overwhelmed. Adolescence is a challenging time; advanced classes and too many activities can leave kids feeling exhausted. Make sure you’re not asking too much of your child during this transitional phase of their life.
Network with Teachers. Keep in touch with your child’s teachers through email or their preferred mode of contact. If you notice your child’s grades dropping dramatically, ask the teacher to share their observations. Is your child engaged in class? Are they not turning in assignments? Is tutoring available? This will give you good insight into your child’s academics.
Be Patient. Most of all, be patient. Kids mature at different rates. Your child will outgrow the low-energy, unmotivated phase of adolescence if you give them time and keep loving and supporting them.
Advanced Psychiatry DFW: Your Adolescent Anxiety and Depression Specialists
If you suspect that your child’s struggles go beyond the usual struggles of adolescence, call us or go online to request an appointment. Help is available for depression, anxiety, ADHD, anger management, and much more. Our team is here to help with these highly treatable conditions. We serve Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington, Denton, and all the surrounding areas.