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My son doesn’t want to return to school or sports post-pandemic.


​​My 14-year-old son was doing hybrid school this fall because of COVID, but he was obsessively following the COVID rates and then insisted on going remote in December. He has refused to go in person to school since then. He also stopped going to soccer, which he has always loved, because it was indoors and kids were not wearing masks. Initially, we were somewhat supportive of his decisions because he was being careful, but over time he has become increasingly troubled. He has stopped trying in school and even with soccer moving outdoors, he still won't go. He insists he is teaching himself all about the stock market and day trading, and he says that he will be successful without high school (he spends endless hours researching this stuff). He refuses to go to soccer or track at high school that starts up tomorrow because he claims he doesn't have time with his new passions and he just isn't interested any more. Before COVID, he was one of the top soccer players and athletes at his high school. He has ADHD but with my helping him with studying, his grades were always in the high 80s or low 90s. Focusing at school has been a struggle for him since middle school, and we have yet to find a medication that works and doesn't cause side effects. Every day he has a stomachache or a different illness that prevents him from doing anything, and he often skips remote school. I don't know what to believe any more. I'm basically feeling panicked all the time because I'm so desperate to get him trying in school and going back to his sports, mostly to get him out of the house and socializing and exercising again. I just argue endlessly with him, but he insists he is getting ahead of everyone else and says we are not supporting him with what he cares about. Any advice would be most welcome! Thanks! 


Virtual Learning

Thanks for messaging in. It sounds like you're going through a tricky situation at home. On one hand, it's great that your son found something that he is interested in and passionate about; on the other hand, it's affecting his schooling, which can affect his future. Parenting is hard and sometimes it can be helpful just to talk about your situation with someone else.

A few questions:

  • Is your son in counseling or therapy of any sort? Even though he is concerned about COVID, many professionals are providing services via Zoom. Maybe him talking with someone could help him work through some of the anxiety he's feeling and find out if there could be something bigger that's worrying him outside of COVID and infection rates.
  • Have you been in contact with the school about what's going on? Do they have any courses or programs that could fall into his interest category that might encourage him to go to school? If he's falling behind, do they have a plan (or summer classes) that he can take to stay caught up? Maybe he's falling away from sports, but see if there are business clubs or other organizations that might better fit his new interests; this could be a different way to get him involved again.
  • When you have arguments with your son and he doesn't feel you're supporting him, what does he say? Does he believe that letting him quit school would be the best for his future? You might come up with an agreement that you will help him graduate early if he puts in some effort to be involved and dedicated to his grades. You could also see if there are any teen groups or clubs around that have a shared interest in what your son is now interested in. If there aren't any specific ones, even a general support group for teens struggling with COVID and/or other changes could be helpful.
  • Another idea is a mentoring program. Does your son have an older brother, or cousin, or someone he looks up to? Maybe they could have some conversations with him about the things he's going through. Does the school have a mentoring program you could utilize? That could be another way to get him socializing and talking with someone else about the impact of his decisions and actions.

The fact of the matter is that at 14 years old his “job" is to go to school and get an education. He may be unhappy with that but it's the way things work. You can keep encouraging him to pursue his interests while also pushing him outside of that comfort zone to try new things. At 14, there is a whole world of amazing topics that he may come to love and want to learn more about. Continue to encourage him to step outside and open his mind to other ideas, even if he may be upset about it.