Parenting: 'My daughter has had zero motivation since COVID'

On this week's 'Parenting' segment on the Moncrieff show, one listener sought advice about how to...
James Wilson
James Wilson

13.29 11 Jun 2022

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Parenting: 'My daughter has ha...

Parenting: 'My daughter has had zero motivation since COVID'

James Wilson
James Wilson

13.29 11 Jun 2022

Share this article

On this week's 'Parenting' segment on the Moncrieff show, one listener sought advice about how to help her daughter who has had no motivation since COVID.

Joanna Fortune, psychotherapist specialising in Child & Adult Psychotherapy, joined Moncrieff to answer this and other listeners' questions.

The question:


“My 17-year-old daughter is extremely emotional and seems very unhappy in herself no matter what I do. 

“I can’t seem to get her to help herself; she’s a lovely looking girl, intelligent but since returning to school after COVID she’s had zero motivation. 

“I’m so glad with the school holidays are coming along as all I seem to do is repeat myself about study and putting in some effort. She has no interest in sports and has no hobbies. 

“She spends most of time on her phone in her room and would sleep all day if I let her.

"Diet is no good and suffers from mouth ulcers regularly - I cook every day, some days she will eat her dinner, other days she will move the food around her plate but leave most of it. 

“If she could have Chinese and McDonalds several days a week, she would have no problem eating all those. 

“She’s a size 6 and conscious of her body image and I’ve been to a dietician and no issues there. 

“I’m at my wits end trying to engage with her and doing all I can for her but it seems to be falling on deaf ears.

“She’s attending counselling sessions at the moment but I can’t see any changes. I don’t think she is doing what the counsellor is asking her to do. 

“I feel I am failing her.” 

Parenting: 'My daughter has had zero motivation since COVID'

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Joanna’s advice: 

“There’s a lot there. You know what struck me as you were reading it, the amount of time the letter writer has said ‘I’; ‘No matter what I do, I can’t seem to get her,’ ‘I’ve been to a dietician about her’ - I assume. 

“It’s very much a parent working really, really hard and you’re looking as well at the counselling - and I don’t know what kind of therapy that she’s in or how long it’s been going on for - but you haven’t seen any change, you don’t think she’s doing what the counsellor’s asking her to do. 

“It also presumes the counsellor is asking her to do anything and that’s not really what therapy is about. 

“I’m really glad she is in some kind of a therapeutic process and just give this time and space because psychotherapy is a process. It is not a fix and it’s also about a fit and sometimes you have to go to a number of therapists to find, ‘This is a place and a relationship’ because that’s what psychotherapy is - it’s a relationship - where [you] can work things out. 

“Just give that some time.” 

Joanna added: 

“The other thing that jumped out at me was her age, she’s 17 and the parent writing in does mention ‘no motivation since COVID’. 

“I’m hearing so much of this in this age group at the moment. And I don’t say that to go, ‘Sure it doesn’t matter’ - not at all. 

“I just think we need to take this quite seriously. 

“The COVID year stole a lot from this age group and we cannot expect all teenagers to just bounce back because they’re people not balls. They’re just not going to bounce back like that and some of them are needing additional support and it sounds like your daughter is struggling. 

“I share your [view] here with the parent saying, ‘I’m so glad it’s the summer.’ I found myself going, ‘Yeah, me too! I’m really glad it’s the summer as well.’ 

“But what are you going to do with it? Because if she’s going to spend the summer in her room on her own on her phone - if nothing changes then nothing changes. 

“So I wonder about designating this a summer of fun and relaxation - whatever that means to her. 

“That’s not for this parent to decide that fun looks and sounds a certain way but maybe it’s about getting outdoors with her. Just suggesting a walk but changing the physical environment as you do. 

“You might go up a hill or a mountain or into the forest or to the sea. Different kinds of physical environments can be really effective at resetting a busy agitated or strung out brain. 

“And I also think do nice sensory things with her… Would she go for a nail appointment? Or a massage or a nice lunch with you? Or if she’s more into activity experiences - you say she has no hobbies or interests - but what does interest her? 

“Does she like painting? Does she like drawing? Does she like singing or music?

“Just being interested in what interests her, even if it’s about watching the same TV show together. Even if that’s it.”

Main image: File photo shows a stressed teenager. Picture by: Aleksandr Davydov / Alamy Stock Photo

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