Dear Teen Parenting Coach

Q: What If My Teen Lacks All Career Ambition and Direction?

Your teen is a couch potato with no long-term plans after high school, or apparent ambition. Before lack of interest becomes failure to launch, help him find the right path with these steps.

Q: “My teenager has no idea what she wants to do after high school – let alone college. She has struggled with school her whole life, and seems stuck vegging out on the couch. We’re worried that if we don’t get her on the right path, she might live her entire life in our basement. How can we get her motivated and moving toward success?”


A: You need to help your daughter find the “why.” Why is she going to go for a certain career path? Why might she consider college? It’s how her ADHD brain gets engaged to get motivated. To make the requirements for a certain degree, or a job seem worthwhile, teens with ADHD need to find a purpose – a goal with a reason that’s believable to them. Then, hyperfocus can kick in.

To do that, you have to be methodical. Ask your daughter to write down a list of passions – things your child is excited about – on one sheet of paper. On another sheet of paper, write down the things your child can make money at – things someone will pay her to do. These might be the same things. Finally, ask your daughter to make a list of things she can become really good at – world class, one of the best people in the field or industry. The intersection of those three lists is the dream career for your daughter to pursue.

Then, she has to actively try it out. That’s how she will determine what she’s really passionate about. She might think she wants to be a twitch streamer, but when she realizes how much work video editing is, she might hate it. Getting her to try things is the hard part.

Parents have to provide the structure, and you can do it in stealth mode – do some research, and suggest certain programs that your daughter can get excited about, that will get her into the world to see what life is like outside the house.

[Free Download: Transform Your Teen’s Apathy Into Engagement]

  • Summer jobs are crucial for trying out passions.
  • Summer experiential camps are awesome if you can afford them. There are coding camps, acting camps, entrepreneurship camps, cooking camps – all kinds of things your daughter can do in time off from school when academics aren’t overwhelming.
  • Volunteer positions are great, too, if your child can’t find a job or a camp that fits.

Your daughter might be resistant to trying things. Teens with ADHD often have a deep-seated fear of failure. It can look like a problem with motivation. Really, it’s this: Committing to something they value means they are putting themselves in the spotlight, and that can result in failure and more shame.

It’s important to teach your teen that failure is part of any successful person’s journey. As long as you learn from stumbles, they aren’t truly failures. Explain that mistakes are learning opportunities. Give lots of examples of people who have failed, or even times that you have failed in your own life.

[Free Resource: Boost Your Teen’s Executive Functions]

This advice came from “How to Find Your Path: A Roadmap for Choosing a College, a Career, or Something Different,” an ADDitude webinar lead by Rick Fiery, M.S., MBA in February 2019 that is now available for free replay.



Updated on March 29, 2019

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