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Dear Alex,

My daughter is 16, and is just so lazy I can’t stand it. Stereotypical, I know, but she has no motivation to do anything beyond the bare minimum in school, at home, and has given up on her after school activities. Her sleep and eating habits are atrocious. She says she’s just “overwhelmed with everything,” but she has nothing to be overwhelmed with. How do I help her? Or better yet, when does this lazy streak end!? I keep waiting for her to start acting like an adult, and get ready for college, but I fear it will never happen.

~ Busy Mom | June 12, 2022

Dear Busy Mom,

Seeing changes in our kids can set off warning bells in our minds, and create a new set of worries in our hearts. I hear your frustration, and also sense your concern. 

 With any significant change in a teen’s behavior and lifestyle, it is wise to  rule out physical factors like Vit. D deficiencies, mono, thyroid and other physical illness. With a clean bill of physical health, It’s likely the ‘laziness’ stems from mental state, real or perceived. You may be surprised to hear laziness in teens, may actually be a manifestation of depression and anxiety. 

Teen mental health issues tend to go underdiagnosed because they are excellent at masking symptoms and truly believe this depressed state is the new normal. In my practice I see teens struggle with feeling out of control of their own circumstances, lacking the confidence to speak up and eventually settle into the new ‘depressed’ life they feel doomed to endure. They don’t know any difference, so they shut down and bear it. 

 When your daughter says she feels overwhelmed, it may be the only word she has to describe feelings of pressure placed on her by friends, school, herself or home. The effects of societal pressures combined with constant barrage of social and peer pressure can make even the most menally stable teen buckle. Coupled with possible underlying feelings of low self-confidence and autonomy it’s not surprising so many teens are struggling with anxiety and depression.   

 Try approaching her differently.  Show her she has value to you, take her on a parent/daughter date and let her guide the conversation. Reconnect and show concern rather than disappointment. Bring up the changes you’ve seen and give her some freedom to make suggestions about changes that might simplify things for her. Can she set one small, attainable goal to build back some confidence and sense of control? Can you help her find time and space to connect with the people and activities she enjoys most? How can you work together to make healthy food choices easily accessible to her for overall wellness support? 

 If she does not respond well to these suggestions from you, consider engaging with an auntie, teacher, or trusted mentor who can provide guidance without the pressures of parental expectations she may be manifesting. 

As we come into the summer months, keeping in mind isolation from friends can intensify some of these difficult feelings. If your teen shows worsening signs of behavior, mood, or seems inclined to hurt herself, do not hesitate to reach out for professional help. If she refuses to see a medical professional or doesn’t find value in treatment,  please call me. While I’m not a licensed therapist, I am a bridge and sometimes coaching is all that’s needed.  A coach can give your child a neutral, confidential mentor that they can trust with their problems and coach them on how to better communicate with their parents. In turn, a coach can provide insight and guidance to you as a parent, on how to best provide support for your child, without betraying this trust. 

For more information on teenage depression and anxiety, or to see if coaching may be a good choice for you or your teen, visit www.alimentallife.com