three high school graduates

three high school graduates

Senior year is an exciting time for most high school seniors. The last prom, signing yearbooks, mock elections, reminiscing on years spent roaming the halls, and participating in afterschool activities are all anticipated. Seniors need time to cherish the last moments of their childhood while mentally preparing for the future. Time to thank their favorite mentors and soak up time with friends before forging their own paths. Tragically, for the class of 2020, COVID-19 cut this time short, canceling not only prom, graduation, and the last sporting events of the year, but also the closure they were looking forward to having before starting their next chapters.

How Seniors are Feeling and Why It Matters

As students practice social distancing, finishing the semester at home, many rites of passage anticipated since childhood have been lost. The pictures alone were likely to be cherished by generations to come. This can be devastating and heartbreaking for seniors to endure, more so than any other graduating class.

It’s normal for seniors to feel grief, anger, and disappointment over such losses outside their control. By the time the threat of COVID-19 passes, many seniors will be leaving for college or mission trips. The time for reminiscing and saying goodbye must be done virtually, making moments like walking across the stage in caps and gowns, hugging friends, wearing prom dresses and tuxedos, pinning corsages on prom dates, celebrating and dancing with peers, and being crowned prom king or queen impossible.

How Can Parents Help?

Despite the difficulties we’re all experiencing, high school seniors are suffering losses that shouldn’t be dismissed. To help seniors cope, we’ve put together some tips for parents.

Refrain from Trivializing

The COVID-19 pandemic is likely a scary, trying time for everyone, and in light of this health threat, parents may see missing the end of high school as trivial, however, it’s a big deal for many seniors. This is why it’s important to address these feelings and refrain from disenfranchising them in any way.

Support Emotional Expression

Show seniors it’s okay to feel and express their emotions. Being able to identify, understand, and process emotions is an important part of the healing process. If your senior is having a difficult time, you may want to provide an emotions list and encourage them to express their feelings creatively or in a safe physical way.

Focus on the Positives

While things may seem bleak, there are better times ahead. Remind your senior of this and focus on the positives the future can bring rather than looking back with sadness or regrets. Our thoughts hold powerful influence over our state of mind, so try to set a good example for your senior by finding the silver linings and milestones to look forward to after the pandemic.

Find Ways to Celebrate

Celebrations may be canceled, but that doesn’t mean you cannot celebrate from home while socially distancing. Throw a virtual prom or graduation party, encourage seniors to make graduation speech videos, get dressed up, and utilize social media. Making this time special for your senior can go a long way.
Signs Your Senior May Need Help Coping

Seniors who already feel vulnerable, lost, or displaced may have an especially difficult time right now. Many students look forward to going to school to escape stresses from home and/or receive outside support. It’s important for parents to help support a low-stress environment, and watch for signs of anxiety, depression, and unresolved rage. Here are some red flags to watch for:

  • Social withdrawal (refraining from reaching out to others while practicing social distancing)
  • Excessive sadness, anger, irritability, outbursts, or mood swings
  • Loss of motivation
  • Changes in eating/sleeping habits
  • Racing thoughts
  • Feelings of impending doom
  • Self-harm
  • Physical complaints such as stomachaches, headaches, nausea, diarrhea
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Paranoid thoughts
  • Extreme jealousy
  • Controlling behavior
  • Harming other people or animals
  • Substance use or abuse
  • Risky behaviors
  • Loss of hope for the future

Seeking extra support for your senior via telehealth counseling sessions can help. We’re all in the same boat and it’s okay not to feel okay. Use this time to strengthen bonds and encourage healthy habits that can set your senior up for success. To learn more about support options, or the services that Idaho Youth Ranch provides, please contact us, we’re here for you.

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