Help! My Teen is So Unmotivated This Summer!

Teens experience a few types of academic burnout depending on their individual situations. For neurotypical kids, academic burnout usually arises towards the end of the semester when they are burdened with final tests, projects and paper in addition to their other commitments such as sports, music or theater or work. For high-achieving kids who are taking AP classes, preparing for AP tests can add to their stress. For juniors in high school who additionally have to take the SAT’s or ACT’s for college, it can be overwhelming. They can become exhausted with how much they have to do.

Neurotypical Kids:

As a parent of these types of teens, your primary job is helping them maintain balance and perspective in their lives. Work with them to create a study/life schedule that allows for some down time each day. Don’t orchestrate what they should do during that time though. Instead brainstorm some healthy options other than screens such as cooking, walking the dog, going for a run, listening to music or even watching a single show with you. If they want to mess around on their phone a bit to “chill”, keep it (like tv) time limited. Teen brains especially need some non-screen to decompress and integrate all of the information they are learning and processing during the day.

Neurodiverse Kids:

For kids with ADHD, learning disabilities or autism spectrum disorders, burnout  can occur more frequently and more intensely. Working hard to hold it together at school all day takes a lot of effort and concentration for these teens. They spend a lot of their time doing academic tasks that are hard, boring or unpleasant. By mid-semester, their efforts may not be panning out as they had hoped and they become discouraged and uninterested in doing the work.

While the recommendations above for neurotypical kids apply equally to these teens, teens who are outside-the-box thinkers benefit from additional parental support in creating shorter work periods with timed breaks, specific tasks to accomplish in those work periods and acknowledgement of their efforts towards working towards goals, even if they are not fully met. This validation encourages them to keep going. Family work time, when parents and kids work side-by-side on their stuff, also helps teens stay on track because adults can monitor them without being intrusive.

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