The COVID-19 pandemic has been impacting people of all ages, in all sorts of ways. One group that is facing a particularly unique experience and set of challenges is graduating high school seniors.
Imagine working towards academic goals year after year, day after day. College applications, SATs and college decisions behind you, you’re finally ready to unwind and celebrate your accomplishments in reaching this milestone. Prom, graduation and graduation parties await you before heading off to college.
Enter COVID-19. No advanced warning. Suddenly school is online, social interaction is significantly limited and plans for celebrating the end of high school remain pending…for months. We now know schools will be closed for the remainder of the academic year, so what’s the plan, and how can we help these seniors cope with their losses?
Let’s take a look at some suggested tips for parents and family members.
- Acknowledge and validate their grief.
Grief and loss take many different forms. Try to empathize with what they’re feeling at this time.
- Don’t project.
You may be grieving as well, as you’ve likely been a part of their journey and are ready to celebrate. Acknowledge and be mindful of your own feelings, i.e. disappointment, while at the same time not making assumptions about theirs.
- Ask what they need.
Let them take the time to figure out what they need to cope. If they don’t want to talk about the situation, try to be respectful of that, despite how much you’d like to be the superhero and make them feel better. Let them know you are available when they do want to talk.
- Get creative (if they’re cool with it).
There are many ways to try to ease the sting of missing out. For example, holding a down-sized graduation at home or in the backyard. Have friends and relatives attend virtually. Check with your senior first though to make sure they’re open to it. Also, stay informed with the plans their school district may be putting in place.
No matter what, this will not be the end of senior year high school students had anticipated. Although a letdown, try to remind them how proud you are of them, what an accomplishment they’ve achieved and how their future ambitions are still attainable. See that they are making self-care a priority at this time as well.
The clinicians at Nourish Your Mind feel for you, Class of 2020, and are here for support if needed!
By: Gina Fiorella, LMSW