Getting your kid 'unstuck' and moving

October 12, 2020
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Hi Delilah,

I have a 20-something-year-old son who is “stuck.” He has no motivation to do anything. He’s not currently enrolled in school because he’s lost interest in his major and doesn’t know what degree he wants to pursue. He plays online games til the wee hours of the morning and sleeps most of the day. He lost his job back in March due to COVID-19 and has applied places, but hasn’t been emailed for an interview. He doesn’t date because he doesn’t get out to meet anyone. He’s STUCK.

Do you have some advice to help get him unstuck?


A mom who wants more for her son

Dear Mom,

It’s not easy watching our sons not meet our expectations: all that potential, all that wasted time! Bless our hearts! BUT, what if we are the ones enabling them to be “stuck”?

Last year I found myself in the same situation with my 19-year-old. I kept asking myself why wasn’t he getting a job? Why was he staying up all night? Why wasn’t he enrolling in college? Where was his ambition? I would like to say I handled this calmly, with grace and understanding, but I don’t want to lie to you. Instead I cussed, left him to-do lists, made him in charge of dinner and carting his sisters around, cussed some more, made him pick up my groceries, fold clothes, sweep, cussed again and then I gave him a deadline.

Right here I want to stop and let you know I was constantly trying to find the good: He wasn’t on drugs. He wasn’t drinking. He wasn’t rebellious. There wasn’t a pregnant girl. No STDs. Find the good. Find the humor.

Now, this part is tough, you have to have a heart to heart with your son. The longer my son stayed in a cycle of complacency his anxiety about doing things manifested into depression. To put it simply, he was scared. Scared of rejection, failure, and I was making it easy on him by providing everything he needed or wanted. Together we set a deadline, he had to get a job by a certain date or I would fill out applications for him at Lowe’s, Home Depot or Game Stop—all perfectly respectable jobs IF he was personally applying for them, but a kick in the ... shins, if I was. To force him to get back on a schedule I turned the internet off at night. Your phone will only last so long as a hotspot and sucks with a gaming computer! Yes, this caused much strife, like pissed off, me cussing and him angry, stomping through the house tension. The catch phrase during this time was: “Get a job, and you won’t have to put up with me! I’m remembering this and living with you when I get old!!”

He got a job right before the deadline. He hated it, but liked the paycheck. Hated it enough he quit, but kept putting in applications. I made it clear I no longer owed him anything but love, understanding and encouragement, and as long as I thought he was trying I would continue to let him live with me and use my house, utilities and internet. He got laid off during COVID, but kept checking in with his manager—yeah, I insisted, I didn’t want to see him spiral back to a rut of never leaving his room—he got called back into work. He works a schedule where it takes advantage of him being a night owl, and keeps him from staying in a virtual world of games.

Fast forward a year, Nic and I are sitting on the couch a couple of nights ago and I asked him what finally clicked and made him get a job, his answer, “You made me! BUT, I like the money, and like not having to ask you for any. I like the freedom of being able to make my own decisions with my money and time and being able to make my car payment and insurance.”

He admitted he makes enough to move out, but he likes our house and our neighborhood. Likes knowing we are here and expecting him home. I understand. Baby steps, he’s doing what I asked, he got a job and he’s being responsible with his money. This didn’t happen in a week, and bless his heart, he has a little respect and fear I will follow through on my promises of cutting off the luxuries I provide for him.

In short: Talk to him. Get him an appointment with his primary doctor, if you feel he’s suffering from anxiety or depression. Set a reasonable date for him to get a job and outline the expectations you have for his responsibilities. Then explain he’s an adult, and you fulfilled the requirements of raising him to be self-sufficient and responsible for himself and his actions, now he needs follow through. Stay strong with your deadline, understand he may test you and you might have to follow through with cutting off his phone, internet, any money or transportation you’ve been supplying for him. Just know you aren’t alone and many of us are going through this with our sons, and once they find their groove they are going to shine!

Delilah McMasters is a local resident and the mom of six. Reach her at

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