Parenting is hard work. Parenting a struggling young adult who seems content doing nothing can be frustrating. We get it. When you think you’ve done your job raising a productive adult, you find yourself battling basic life choices with them. You aren’t alone. Pure Life Adventure Therapy sees struggling young adults daily, just like yours. And we can help.
Your child’s lack of motivation, maybe more than just wanting to do nothing. They may be struggling with depression, trauma, or crippling anxiety. But how would you know? We’ll share what depression can look like in your teen’s life and what you can do to help.
How Do You Deal With Unmotivated Young Adults
It can be frustrating to sit on the sideline of your teen’s life and watch them handle things differently than you would. It may even be that they simply aren’t handling life at all. Mental health issues are complex. As adolescents, you can’t put them in timeout or easily distract them with something more positive. So what exactly does a parent of a struggling and unmotivated teen child do?
Motivation is the cause or reason to act, an inner urge that moves or prompts a person into action. A lack of motivation can stem from a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons may be obvious to a bystander, but others may not be. What you can do is observe. Take note of when their motivation wanes or ignites. Do you see any patterns? Do you see negative triggers that stop motivation from progressing? Lean into any positive observations you may see and work to help your child replicate what does work for them.
Low motivation may also result from depression, anxiety, stress, or trauma. Sometimes, these are harder to recognize and may not have a specific pattern. These are the times you will want to do your best to be a positive influence and avoid damaging titles or names. Avoid referring to your teen as lazy. Don’t use other individuals or children as a comparison. For example, don’t ask, “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” Don’t criticize or complain about the efforts they make. They may not be significant to you, but any effort is worth acknowledging and praising.
How Do I Know If My Young Adult Has Depression?
Depression can have a tremendous impact on a teen’s life. From motivation to self-confidence, depression can deplete your child’s will to do anything. Here are eight signs that your teen may be suffering from depression.
Sadness Or Hopelessness
Feelings of sadness are normal, but young adults who struggle with depression have extended periods of sadness or more extreme levels of sadness. There isn’t always a specific reason for them to feel sad, but they do. They can feel that nothing will ever be better again and that this sadness is permanent.
Irritability Or Anger
Depression is often thought to be crying and sadness only, but it can also express itself through anger and irritability. Your child may lose patience over seemingly small things or feel immense anger or frustration in situations in which you wouldn’t normally expect such reactions. It can be as simple as missing a show they liked, being unable to go to an event they were looking forward to, or being angry that they forgot an appointment or an item at the grocery store.
Withdrawal From Friends And Loved Ones
Withdrawal goes beyond simply enjoying alone time. Withdrawal is extended time away from those they normally enjoy engaging with. It is an intentional separation from friends and loved ones. You may see them make odd excuses to avoid interaction or blatantly ignore invites, texts, calls or requests to engage.
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Changes In Sleeping Habits And Eating Habits
Changes in sleeping and eating habits can mean that their standard patterns have been altered. If they normally are night owls, but you now find them sleeping early in the evening, this could be cause for concern. Some with depression find they cannot sleep, while others sleep all day and night. Along with these changes, you may see overindulgence in eating or not eating. Any extreme in either direction is a concerning sign.
Loss Of Interest In Usual Activities
If your young adult loves reading, video games, watching, or playing sports but begins to avoid participating in such activities, take note. Disinterest may not happen immediately but could occur over time. No matter their love or passion, when they actively seek to avoid it or can’t be enticed to participate, this is often a sign of depression.
Fatigue Or Lethargy
Depression can present physical symptoms for those suffering. The continued sadness, anger, stress, or disappointment that depression brings can cause physical fatigue and lethargy. Watch for abnormal or persistent tiredness and lack of energy.
Depression can affect thinking and focus. Lack of focus or concentration can be one of the most noticeable signs to others and the sufferer but is usually excused due to general life stress or disinterest in what they are working on. Again, like many other symptoms, pay attention to consistent changes in their ability to focus or concentrate.
Thoughts Of Suicide Or Death
Wanting to end one’s life is serious and needs to be addressed immediately. Pay attention to your child’s choice of words. They may not use the word suicide or death but may choose terms like “I just want it all to stop” or, “I am done trying to make my life work every day. Everything is too hard. I don’t want to do this anymore,” or, “I’m such a burden to everyone around me.” Any conversation or comment that alludes to wanting to end or stop life should be taken seriously.
3 Ways To Help A Struggling Young Adult
As a parent, there are many things you can do for a child that may be struggling. Even if you do not struggle with depression or cannot relate to their feelings, you can be an impactful and positive guide in their life.
Set Boundaries With Love
It can be tempting to “clear the path” for a struggling teen by removing challenges or expectations from their plate. We advise striking a balance between seeking to understand what they are going through and setting clear expectations and boundaries. A young adult needs to understand that you’re willing to get them the help they need but that they will need to engage in treatment and life meaningfully.
Encourage Open Communication
Getting your teen to talk openly is important. You will never know the full extent of their depression or needs until they share. Create a safe space, free of judgment, allowing your adult child to share their feelings. They will not come to talk with you if they sense they may get in trouble or a lecture.
Seek The Help Of A Professional
Depression does not go away on its own. Bigger issues may be at play that add to depression or trigger more extreme depressive episodes. Seeking the help of a professional is important. It is often the first step to helping the child receive any needed medical intervention. A child suffering from depression must be properly assessed to avoid worsening symptoms and to prevent causing harm to themselves. A professional can offer hope and a path to healing.
How Can Outdoor Adventure Therapy Help Young Adults
When life feels overwhelming, it can be freeing to change your environment. A major benefit to outdoor adventure therapy, sometimes mistaken for wilderness adventure therapy, is the ability to leave any toxic situations behind. Whether life is stressful at school, tension in relationships, or an overwhelming home life, outdoor adventure therapy removes students from such environments to allow them a fresh, clean starting point. The program works well for those wanting to take a gap year. Instead of simply stepping away from everyday life, our gap year opportunities help students have experiences and learn coping skills while they take a break so they can come back better than ever.
Adventure therapy also embraces the incredible healing power of nature. Living outdoors while stepping outside to serve a new community provides a unique perspective for students. They can set aside negative thoughts circling their mind and focus on new adventures, experiences, and relationships. They’ll engage in a completely new life. Adventure therapy activities build confidence. It gets students outside their comfort zone healthily and safely so they can learn more about their capabilities and ability to grow.
Pure Life Adventure’s Resources For Young Adults And Depression
Pure Life Adventure is a unique adventure therapy service. Adventure therapy aims to provide a safe place in nature to help students foster self-reflection, independence, confidence, bravery, community awareness, and more. We have personally witnessed the healing power that our program has had on struggling young adults. Pure Life provides hope to teens and their families when they aren’t sure where to go. Loss of direction in life as a young adult does not have to defeat your children. Dealing with depression, anxiety, lack of motivation, or loss of confidence is not their predetermined future.
Adventure therapy is a highly effective method that combines the grounding aspects of nature, the comradery of group and community experiences, individual therapy, and intentionally structured physical activities to help teens gain confidence and direction in their lives. Our activities include surfing, sea kayaking, white water rafting, cultural immersion experiences, and service projects.
If your child feels like they need to take a therapeutic gap year to reset, let Pure Life teach your child how amazing they are. Through the help of our licensed therapist and a detailed daily itinerary and activities, your child will learn tools to help them cope with life beyond the forests of Costa Rica. Life won’t always be perfect, but we can give them the confidence to continue moving forward after a short break or a gap year experience and help them see their value and how to work through additional challenges they may face later in life.
Don’t let parenting a struggling teen take control of your life. There’s healing available, and Pure Life is ready to help. Read more on depression in young adults in our free whitepaper. Contact Pure Life’s team for more information and to see if Pure Life outdoor adventure therapy is a good fit for your loved one.