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Teenage boy seems stuck

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My teenage son is having difficulties in school and is failing for the first time. He is a senior and hasn’t even applied to colleges yet fully. He is very bright 4,5 on AP exams, but doesn’t like doing the homework. He still is involved with friends and afterschool activities, however has become more distant and will not talk to us. When I have asked straight out about any drug use, he gets very upset, and I don’t think this is the problem, since he broke off a close friendship due to the friend using drugs. He can sleep for more than 12 hours, can’t seem to concentrate so he says and can’t put his finger on it He won’t speak to us about it, I don’t think he knows. any advice?

Teenage boy seems stuck

Answered by on -


It must be really hard to watch a kid who has so much promise seem so stuck. If you’re sure that he hasn’t gotten involved with drugs, there are other possibilities. For one thing, he may be scared. High school is ending. Everyone is talking about moving on. He may be overwhelmed by the endless choices available to him. Like a deer in the headlights, he has frozen in place.

Applying to colleges is a daunting task for many kids. He has to figure out what kind of school he might like. He has to fill out all those forms. He has to collect letters of recommendation and do the paperwork to get his transcript sent out. It may be that the more he thinks about it, the more impossible it all seems. Better to go to bed and pull the covers over his head. Smart as he is, he can’t think of a way to handle it.

If this is the case, you could be most helpful by talking with him about whether he wants a year off. He may have assumed that he couldn’t even ask. There are lots of valuable learning and living experiences available for a “gap year.” See my article on PsychCentral called “Are You Ready for College? Alternatives for the Unsure.”

On the other hand, if he does want to go to college but is overwhelmed by the process, perhaps you could work together to divide up some of the tasks. I would suggest, however, that you consider whether a kid who can’t organize himself to do applications has the self-discipline needed to succeed at college. If in doubt, consider a year at the local community college so he has the chance to learn how to organize himself before he has to deal with too many changes.

Then again, it’s also possible that your son is genuinely depressed. The behaviors you report (sleeping long hours, isolating, not being able to concentrate) are consistent with a diagnosis of depression. If you think that may be the case, please have him evaluated by a mental health professional. Even if he isn’t clinically depressed, he might find it a relief to talk to someone who is able to be more objective than you can be about how he is feeling.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Teenage boy seems stuck

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). Teenage boy seems stuck. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 23, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.