Dear Teen Parenting Coach

“Q: My Son Doesn’t Care About Anything! What’s Going On?”

Teen apathy is real – and common. If your child doesn’t seem to care about anything beyond video games, it’s probably due to low self-esteem. The remedy is to help them feel good about themselves — and their talents and abilities.

Boy with ADHD who doesn't care about anything

Q: “My teenage son, who has ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), doesn’t seem to care about anything. He thinks everything is stupid, except for his video games and his phone. His lack of empathy frankly worries me – what’s going on, and what can I do?”

A: To start, it’s not that your son doesn’t have empathy. Kids and teens with ADHD and ODD do have empathy. What may explain your teen’s apathy, however, is that he’s likely feeling disconnected from himself and afraid of negative judgment from others.

Why Teens with ADHD Pull Back

To him, everything may seem stupid because:

  • He may not feel that he’s succeeding.
  • He doesn’t necessarily feel like anyone’s on his side.
  • He may have picked up on lots of negative messaging about himself, directly and/or indirectly over the years (as many individuals with ADHD do).

[Does Your Son Hide in the Safe Social Confines of Gaming?]

Why Teens with ADHD Hide in Video Games

As your son is just entering adolescence, he is likely becoming more aware of the ways in which, painfully, he’s not be fitting in or succeeding as he would like. He may be resorting to video games, for example, because they provide concrete ways to succeed – you reach this level, go to the next level, and so on. Depending on the game, he may not have to interact with people and pick up on their expressions, thus avoiding any cues that he is or isn’t fitting in or missing out.

How to Nurture Your Teen’s Interests

To combat his apparent disinterest and indifference, begin to nurture what your teen is good at outside of gaming and his phone. Try to think of one very small thing he can do every day, or is already doing every day, that essentially builds his confidence. If he’s good at video games, could he be interested in learning to program?

If you haven’t already, it’s also worth considering finding a family counselor who is familiar with ADHD and ODD. With ODD, your son may not only have a proclivity for aggression, but there may be some discord in the parent-child bond that could explain why he is behaving a certain way. Counseling, perhaps along with medication, can turn down the volume on the challenging issues, allowing your son to focus on building himself.

My Son Doesn’t Care About Anything: Next Steps

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