It seems that this is going to be a year when high school and college students are going to be missing milestones in their lives. As an adult looking back, proms, senior year antics, and graduation ceremonies feel like distant memories that I do not attach much importance to. However, if I were to be a high school or college senior at this moment in time I would feel a whole lot of negative emotions thinking I was about to be robbed of all of the celebrations I have worked so hard for the past few years.
When I think back on that time in my life, around April through mid-June life revolves around so many fun activities that mark the end of a long journey even as we start to look forward to the next stage of our lives. During this pandemic, people are being forced to stay home and away from friends, any activities that have to do with groups of people are forbidden, and schools look to be out until September. I hear that most will have their degrees mailed to them. Goodbye and Good Luck without any pomp or circumstance.
This is tough!
If you are living with a high school senior or have a college senior back at home this spring, it is important for you to help them navigate this time that surely feels disappointing. As they are missing milestones, how can you help them navigate this disappointing time and mark it uniquely within your family? These are the questions of the moment.
First, allow your child to vent, be angry, express disappointment and anger at the entire situation. Invite these feelings and be present to them. What your young adult is feeling is real and being able to make space and validate these feelings is important. If you are having a difficult time empathizing, remember back to how you felt during these important moments. It may feel long ago and not so important, but at the time it was everything. Recalling your own experience at that time, may help you hold space for your children to vent without feeling the need to shut them down.
Second, don’t jump the gun and think all is lost. Perhaps all will be cancelled, perhaps it will all be postponed — most of us don’t know exactly what is going to happen. It is difficult to live with uncertainty and not be able to make any definitive plans for these celebrations. Rather, one has to just take it day-by-day and be in the moment. So difficult at this time.
Third, if the special events are called off, finding creative ways to celebrate may be called for not only by you, but the entire school community. Perhaps a virtual prom is held as well as a virtual graduation ceremony. I am not sure if these types of events are in the works, but perhaps you could call the school/ PTA or whomever to inquire as to how this end of school could be marked in community with one another without being physically close to one another. If nothing is going to take place via the school, perhaps your own community of friends and families can get together virtually and mark the occasion together. One thing, it will be unforgettable.
Finally, make sure that you, as a family, mark the occasion of graduation. Perhaps you delay the party until it is safe or simply have a family celebration with cake and well wishes and creative gifts. Perhaps you create a video to mark the day. Technology can very much be our friend during such a time. Make sure to make time and make it a big deal for your graduate!
All is not lost during this time that may bring your senior to missing milestones in their school career. However, by allowing space for them to share their feelings, looking into what can be done at a school/community level, and marking it personally will help make the occasions special this season. Hold on to what is important and make sure to not forget even as society battles this pandemic.