As a childfree person, I’ll never know what it’s like to be a parent but I can relate to the teenagers as I was a high academic achiever yet still had issues.
I would say, it’s easy for teenagers to still experience self worth/esteem issues, even if it seems that they have the healthiest family unit. This can be due to experiences growing up that may have happened outside of the home, seemingly innocuous but consistently built up and got preprogrammed into them so that they subconsciously behave in ways that they can’t understand but it makes them feel safe.
Sometimes, it can be something as simple as this is what they have to do, thereby going against their instinct, and if I’m the parent in this scenario then…ha, without inner work, that programming is going to be passed on. You can be good, even perfect, at something and still take no personal joy from it.
There’s also the type of encouragement that their parents give them (well-intentioned but miscommunicated) such as do your best. But unknowingly/subconsciously, did the parent indicate that this is the only path to go on, that all other paths will not be as successful even if the best of work is done, that pursuing something that is not guaranteed despite the work is a huge risk? Perception is not the same between adult vs child brains.
The type of encouragement can also build up perceived notions in the child’s mind that if their dreams are risky then it’s not a good path, they won’t feel safe, even if they excel at what they do love. So they become risk averse, play it safe and then wonder why they’re still not reaching as high as another person who has less education/skills/talents yet are getting so much more results.
One thing a child will always ensure is that they do anything to make themselves feel safe, even if it’s something hurtful, so if a parent guides them but unknowingly pushes them onto a well-trodden path (instead of letting them feel safe enough to explore/pursue their desires) for the sake of protecting them, then that overly protective energy the child grew up with can also make them feel scared of the big, bad world and close in on themselves… which also makes them unhappy.
Another thing is the media the parents consume that can be reflected to the kid. If murders appear on the news, did they tell the teen to not go anywhere again or do they tell them to keep and eye out and be safe?
Also, if their friend betrays them and their parents rub salt into their wounds and tell them not to ever have friends again, how are they going to survive without relational skills? How are they going to get in touch with themselves, improve their own instinct and judgment of others when it comes to experiences that want to shape them?
little to no parental protection = unhappy/lost
overt parental protection = unhappy/lost.
If these teens are your characters, maybe you should explore the parental characters as inner world (home life) is also very important as outer world (societal) interactions.
A parent who goes through their kid’s journal probably doesn’t respect their kid’s sense of privacy, which means that there can be overlap in other aspects of their home life.
So if a parent is not self aware and cannot see if any of their actions might be contributing towards their child’s unhappiness then the conversation they have with their kids is 95% likely to dissolve into an argument. It’s also pretty likely that they are being told how to approach their life, instead of doing what feels right for them in that moment (within reason, of course). This also depends on the culture dynamics/overall world setting for your story as well.
Without unearthing the actual reason for their unhappiness, any plan of action will not be very effective.