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Dr-A-Greene
Dr-A-Greene, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 309
Experience:  Clinical and Forensic Psychologist
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My 20 year old son doesnt know what he wants to do. He spends

Customer Question

My 20 year old son doesn't know what he wants to do. He spends most of his time playing video games. He has a few friends, but apart from the ones that are in university, they're the same. No girlfriend; seemingly no interest in anything. I'm worried
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr-A-Greene replied 4 years ago.

Dr-A-Greene :

What is your son's level of responsibility? Does he live with you or on his own?

Customer:

He lives with us. He just finished high school June 2011; he's got a part-time job at a video game store.

Dr-A-Greene :

Alright, so he finished school 8 months ago. Was there talk about if he would go on to school at the time that he graduated? What were his expressed plans then?

Customer:

He said he wanted to take a year off before committing to college (but not university.) He has no idea what he'd like to study -- which I'm okay with. (I don't think it's bad if it takes him another year to figure out something to study. I just wish he were at least having more fun. He has tentative plans to travel in the next year with a pal.)

Dr-A-Greene :

Okay. Is there something to indicate to you that he isn't having fun or enjoying himself? Is that the crux of the problem as you see it? (I'm just trying to get an idea about what your main concern is)

Customer:

Good question. He never seems to get overly excited about anything. He's never really down, but neither does he ever seem really up. He's sort of "chill." I guess my main concern is that I'd love to see him get passionate about an area of study or something creative or having a girlfriend or having an adventure. I just don't get that he's having a lot of fun. Maybe I'm wrong.

Dr-A-Greene :

Oh I don't know about that. I'm sure you know your son better than just about anyone. If you sense that he's not really excited about anything right now, you may be right. That was part of the reason I was asking about his situation as well. Your son is at an age where the individuation process usually goes into overdrive. They are starting to figure out who they are and what they want out of life. However, that process can go into a holding pattern depending on what their circumstances are. Since your son is still living at home and isn't engaging in school right now, he doesn't have anything to challenge him. He has time to "take a break" and that sounds like that's exactly what he's doing! My hunch is that once he gets involved with school fulltime and has to begin paying some bills, etc, his individuation process with begin too. I'd like to know your thoughts on this though...

Customer:

I don't know if we've given him a so-called easy ride throughout his life, but he gets a bit overwhelmed if he has a "lot of things to do." I.e. he had to do some hours at work; make an appointment with our family doctor, and schedule time for his driving lessons -- and it seemed to really be quite hard for him.

Customer:

He's had it pretty easy at home; no real chores to speak of. Maybe we've spoiled him. A couple of friends (who have no kids, btw) suggest some "tough love": make him pay some rent, etc., but I'm not sure if that would help.

Dr-A-Greene :

The first part of your answer was interesting. You mentioned that he seems to get overwhelmed easily when asked to multi-task. This could very well be true. But (please keep an open mind about this) - it might be that he is overemphasizing his feelings because he knows that you will step in and help him if he does. My question would be, is he similarly overwhelmed when asked to multi-task at work or by friends?

Dr-A-Greene :

Also, I don't know about your friends' suggestions about the tough love. I understand what they're saying, but I believe that if you have a firm boundary about how long you will allow him to stay home and not pay his own way (and stick to it) - that's fine too.

Customer:

Well, when he had those three things to do (book two appointments, get to work shifts) we DIDN'T help -- he asked my wife if she could book the doctor's appointment -- but when he got it all done, you could see how relieved he was; maybe a feeling of accomplishment, as small as it were. But then he needed to "kick back" and just lounge for a couple of days. We try to avoid "when we were your age", 'cause we know its different now (i.e our adventures were hitchhiking across the country.)

Customer:

He does get busy at work, and can finally relate when I tell him if I'm busy at work.

Dr-A-Greene :

That's interesting too - so, he asked for help from your wife, but was able to accomplish it all the same. My concern is actually the second part - that he needed to "kick back" for a couple of days. Unfortunately that isn't how the world works and this attitude will likely not be met with acceptance out there like it is at home. I understand that the world isn't the same as it was and avoiding the "when we were your age" lectures is probably a good thing (I applaud your ability to hold back!). However, in some basic respects, the world is the same: the world will expect your son to pay his own way, accomplish tasks assigned to him in school and work, and to generally behave like an adult. If he isn't required to do that now, I'm not surprised that he isn't really behaving like one. - Adults have goals and dreams and plans for the future. Kids just play for today. And that kind of sound like what he's doing. - - - My apologies if that sounds harsh. I honestly don't mean for it to. I'm trying to help.

Customer:

So -- should we give him some deadlines for starting to pay rent, etc.? I can't expect him to simply come up with an idea of what he "wants to be" -- it took me years -- but maybe giving him some solid goals would help shape him a bit?

Dr-A-Greene :

That sounds excellent, actually. Start small and expect some push back. He isn't going to want to - but I think it might help guide him toward the responsibility he will face in the future. Additionally, you might want to take him on an adventure of your own to show him a different side of yourself (if you haven't already). I'm guessing that he knows who you are as a father, but maybe not as much about who you are as a man - which is what he will be attempting to become.

Customer:

Okay, good food for thought. I have to go. Thanks.

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