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Few things are more frustrating than trying to motivate teenagers who seem to have little direction for their lives. After all, as parents, we have our own hopes and dreams for our children. So, it can be disappointing to watch them waste their young years on frivolous activities that won’t enhance their futures.

If this describes your older children, you’re not alone. US parents are shelling out a whopping $500 billion a year, collectively, to their unemployed or underemployed children. The reasons behind this trend have more to do with crippling student loan debt and unreliable employment rates than unmotivated individuals. But if you add that to the mix, imagine the difficulty you’ll have getting your teen off your couch. Instead of giving up hope, though, there are a few ways you can help them out of their rut.

Seek counseling

Most teenagers are actually pretty excited about one thing or another. They may not have any idea as to what they want to do, but they usually want to do something. This is true even if that something is hanging out with their friends every day or getting ready for senior prom. But if your teenager starts showing signs of displeasure with things they used to enjoy, it’s best to seek the help of a good counselor as soon as possible.

Sometimes, the problem is that the parent expects too much out of the child, as a result there is a lot of resistance in the relationship. In those cases, family counseling can be beneficial to pinpoint unhelpful behaviors and conversation patterns. But sometimes, the problem is more serious. Your teen could be experiencing depression or situational trauma that you know nothing about. Watch for signs of depression, such as changes in eating or sleeping patterns, or distancing themselves from friends. In severe cases, residential programs for teenagers might be necessary, but only your doctor can help you decide.

Find alternative education options

Some teenagers have no desire to attend college. This can be disheartening, but it’s important to take their feelings into account. After all, if they’re forced to attend, they may fail or ditch class anyway. In these situations, try to meet your teen halfway. Speak to a career counselor about aptitude tests they can take to find out their strong points.

Also, let them know there are options available that don’t necessarily involve sitting in classrooms for four years. Plenty of colleges offer excellent online programs that can be completed entirely online. And be sure to gather information about shorter programs and allow them to work part-time while attending. A good example that is both online and shorter than traditional degrees is real estate. In less than a year, your teen could be working as a real estate agent in Michigan, or almost any other US state they might choose.

Talk about goals

Many parents start stressing the importance of making money to their children very early on. And while it is, of course, an important part of adulthood, it may be placing undue pressure on your teen. Instead of berating your teen about their lack of enthusiasm, try having open discussions such as about dreams and goals. Most adults agree that job satisfaction is much more important than the amount of money they make. If the focus of life goals can be shifted to enjoyment, you might find your teen’s outlook on life starts to shift.

Give them permission to change their minds

Many students are afraid to go to college because they have no idea what they want to do. But encourage your teen to just get started anyway and allow them to find their path along the way. Studies show that about 75 percent of all students change their majors at least once before they graduate. This means that a lot of their ideas and goals are shaped along the way. Try to give your child the opportunity to explore. Hopefully, this will remove some of the pressure they might be feeling.

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