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Help! My Teen Has Been Taken By Aliens!

Support for Parents of Teens Who Have Lost Their Focus

Most parents find at some point that their teen no longer cares about his work, cannot remain focused, and seems in a fog. He may have taken up video games, staring blankly at the wall with wires coming out his ears, sleeping all day, or watching TV. Maybe he wanders off and doesn't tell you where he is going. Then he gets mad when you worry about what he's up to. Rest easy! Your teen has not been taken by aliens and a vegetable left in his place. He can come through this, and so can you! Here is some advice from the participants on the message boards.

We use a checklist of assignments each day, so he can see what he has to do and feel the accomplishment of having finished things. Also, I break things down into do-able pieces. He still needs me to stay with him while he does his Algebra 1/2 - I do the lesson with him, then I try to get him to do 4-6 of the problems by himself without being distracted by ANYTHING. We correct those, then he does 4-6 more without stopping. We correct those, etc. He seems to do well with that. I don't "reward" him or anything - just work on keeping him focused for short periods of time, break to correct, then focus again.

He will read for hours and hours at a time, though. HOWEVER - I know that eventually he will need to develop the ability to work unassisted for longer periods of time AND the ability to pick up something he started yesterday and get right to work without needing to start all over. So we work at it. Good thing we have a few years left.

I think the unit study program we are using next year will be good to help him develop some of those skills. This is our second year, and it does get easier - then harder, then easier.... Cathe

One thing--There is some pretty good research out there that seems to indicate that the circadian rhythms for most teenagers phase-shifts during adolescence. They naturally have their awake/alert times later, and also cannot fall asleep until later. This also means that their concentration early in the morning is not so great. The writers of the article I read (in U.S. News & World Report) said that this has public policy implications for high schools, many of which start at 7:30 a.m. or earlier.

I've noticed this anecdotally with my two older kids (12 and almost 15 yo): They naturally seem to stay up later and get up later than they used to--and even more so than their dad. If we send them to bed at a "reasonable" hour--like 9:30 or 10:00 p.m.--they simply can't fall asleep until 11:00 or sometimes even midnight. Therefore, around here we've allowed them to stay up later and get up later. This means "school" runs later for us than I think it does in a lot of home schooling families, but flexibility is one of the reasons we home school! It also means that *I* end up staying up later than I would like to sometimes, but I've managed to adapt.

With regards to your son's other issues, in some respects he sounds like my almost-15 yo son, whose modus operandi has been: If it hasn't been expressly forbidden and if you don't *know* that it would be forbidden, than it is permitted until proven otherwise. Although this isn't a horrible guideline (compared to what it might be!), it certainly isn't "What would Jesus do?" We're continuing to work on trying to move him toward the latter, but I think this may come only with prayer (as well as continued encouragement, discipline, instruction, and love!) Caron

My teen has a fit when I ask her where she is going. One thing that I pointed out to my daughter was that even her step-dad and I let each other (and everyone else in the family) know when we are going somewhere. Even as simple as "We are going outside." She fights against it being a "little kid" thing, but after I pointed it out she admitted that she hadn't thought of it as a common courtesy but as a "Mom doesn't trust me or want me to grow up." I also read the study on sleep for teens. I agree wholeheartedly. My only problem is that my daughter is still public school conditioned (only two years out) and still thinks that after 3:00 she doesn't have to do anything. If I let her sleep until 10:00 or 11:00 like she likes, she doesn't get around to doing anything until 12:00 and - by the time you throw lunch, breaks and twiddling your thumbs into the time period of 12:00-3:00, well, there wasn't much work getting done. Sheril

If this behavior is getting out of hand, remove all fun stuff from her room, and maybe even the door too! Tell her that she won't be able to afford any of those items without an education so she'd might as well start getting used to it. Maybe you can assign her tons of housework and tell her she needs the practice so she can do that for a job. If your pastor is supportive of homeschooling, perhaps he can talk to her. Mary Leggewie

I have a 14 year old girl. Her biggest thing right now is to make plans and then "tell" me what is going on. She seems to have forgotten the permission part. We have made some allowance for age. Bedtime was one of them. We allow her to stay up until 10:00 (starting at age 13) but she has to be up and ready for her day by 9:00 and she has to be the one that gets herself up. I won't call her in the morning to wake up. If she isn't up by 9:00, she has to go to bed earlier the next night. I am trying to teach her that there are consequences. I don't think she is pushing us as much as she is trying to find out for herself what the limits mean. I found that compromising on some stuff helped her to see that, yes, she is getting older and would have more responsibilities such as getting herself up on time but she is also responsible for what happens if she messes up. Sheril

This comes from a mother who admits her precious babies were damaged by the school system. Skye has come a LONG ways, but still does not have the confidence and self-image that she should.

I am going to agree with Michelle's idea, but add to it. Encourage her to get a volunteer or paid job. I think she needs to be around other adults (not family) in a positive setting. My daughter started volunteering at a local radio station at 13, art museum at 14, and got a paid job at 15. She started taking private art lessons at age 14, and that really helped her confidence.

My daughter is now 19 and has completed 2 years of college. She still will not believe ANYTHING I say about her artwork or her papers for college. She always says--oh, you just say it's good 'cause you're my mother! She really needs other adults to give her positive comments. In Skye, this has become a drive for perfection, but I think the cause is the same. Skye's relationship with her teachers in public school was very negative. She was criticized and even ridiculed by teachers for her perfectionism and her personality that just attracts people by the dozens--I honestly think some of her teachers were jealous.

I think your daughter may need some positive adult relationships outside the family. A music teacher, if she was interested in music. Maybe join the adult choir in your church. Or some volunteer or paid job. Then she would have adults that see her only in the capacity she is working in, not her struggles with writing/math, or any of the rest of it. I think that you are walking a fine line between disciplining her (which she does need), and placing her in critical situations. Besides the damage from the public school, she does need to learn to deal with hormones at her age, and the combination can be murder.

Anyway, see if you can't find a situation where she can be with adults and not criticized. Kysa

Recommended Reading

Making Peace with Your Teenager by Huggins and Landrum. A book that helps parents foster a better relationship with their teens while guiding them towards Christian values and love of God. Resources Related to This Article

Homeschooling Support Section for more tips and encouragement!