Q: I thought my son would grow out of his somewhat lethargic response to the world as he moved into more mature responsibilities but I was wrong.
He is as unenthusiastic as ever and I do not know what to do about it. At his age, he could be going to university, doing some kind of an apprenticeship course or even working his way up an obscure corporate ladder. He could be doing any of these things. He has enough search engines in his cognitive abilities to do whatever it is that he might want to do.
But he has little or no motivation. He picks up enough odd jobs to pay the rent and put a few groceries in the fridge.
Otherwise he is either dozing off in a corner somewhere or glazing out through an obvious daydream.
We need to do something but we have no idea where we might start. Can you give us a kick-start with some of your suggestions?
A: I don’t think that there is any question but that the first step on your son’s journey to rehabilitation is with your family doctor, perhaps even with a referral from her office to her consulting psychiatrist.
Your son clearly is struggling with a lifelong problem. In many ways, it is not all that different from the problems experienced by kids with attention deficit disorders, but many of them were off the wall, disruptive to everyone else in the classroom, and they got noticed, referred to consulting psychiatrists and/or neurologists and put on medication.
My guess is that your son quietly melted himself into the woodwork and for the most part was out of sight from his classroom instructors. He got missed, he was not noticed by his teachers, even though his ability to focus on classroom responsibilities was weak. Your son did not get the support he needed early on and that only served to magnify his lethargy.
Outside the doctor’s office, you are looking for stimulants of any shape or form that will help get your son out of his fantasy world and into more productive activities.
Coffee or hot chocolate could be on your list, and in fact a whole host of nutrition supplements might be helpful. Perhaps if you had a word or two with your local nutritionist you might get a few more ideas.
Don’t be afraid to challenge his fantasies. At the moment they are discouraging him. He is most likely daydreaming the impossible, setting goals for himself that even a super hero from Marvel comics would struggle if confronted with them. They are keeping him pinned under the oppression of the impossible.
Talk to you son, again and again and again, and let him discuss with you goals that make sense. If you can get his life to begin moving in a more tangible and productive direction his motivation might sparkle a wee bit more. You can do all of this without resorting to some kind of a chip or reward system. Giving him a simple chip or some kind of a tangible reward might have worked when he was a youngster in elementary school but it will not work now. He needs internal rewards, not the external ones, and they are most likely to evolve from those many conversations with you about which I mentioned already.
Finally, remember that your son is likely confronting a genealogical problem. It is not going to go away. But it can be handled more productively and if you and he and your family physician put your minds to it, your son can be more productive and perhaps find the world of real things more rewarding.