We’ve all had to give up a lot during this lockdown but the Class of 2020 has gone through an unprecedented moment in history that has asked them to give up every milestone they looked forward to celebrating together as Seniors. We don’t need to list them because we all know what they are but we do need to actively support these young adults right now and through summer and fall as they try to navigate this new normal.
As parents and friends, what can we do to help? We’ve reached out to teachers, school counselors, and seniors and here’s their advice:
- Remember: this is not normal and don’t try to pretend it is. We all need to acknowledge the depth of this loss to our kids. Talk about it. Listen to what they have to say. Accept their anger and sadness (or even indifference). Nothing we can do will replace the experiences they’ve lost.
This goes way beyond walking the stage or taking the field . . . it is a developmental milestone that has been part of every child’s life for generations. For most kids this marks their transition into adulthood and the eventual going off to college seals the deal.
Most kids didn’t even get to officially say goodbye to their teachers, friends, or even school buildings. They thought they’d just be out for a little bit and then get back to Spring 2020. Instead, they’re cleaning out lockers and saying goodbye to their high school memories all alone without even a friend to hug.
This is all really hard and really sad. And we need to give them space to work through those emotions.
- Be creative in celebrating their achievements. Even while acknowledging the loss we can still mark this moment for our kids. Take pictures with the cap and gown. March them around the backyard or across a mini-stage. Connect with classmates to share their moments. Blanket your yard with Congrats signs and decorations.
- Hang on to as many traditions as possible. Encourage family and friends to send cards and greetings. And if you’re an aunt or uncle (or good friend), remember the day with a call or text and a happy memory of their high school days. Set up a virtual open house with photos, memory boards, and decorations. And absolutely get a graduation cake!!
- Remind your child (and yourself) that this sacrifice is truly for the greater good. This is a monumental, historic experience and these kids hold the honor of being the Class of 2020. They are collectively part of a much bigger movement that is literally saving the lives of those around us.
- Encourage your child to do something beyond themselves. Helping others always makes us feel better. What issue is important to them – pets, children, civil rights, the environment? Pick one and brainstorm easy-to-implement actions that will work in that sector. Right now, all non-profits are struggling as they’ve lost fundraising opportunities and volunteer access. Together as a family you can make a difference if you just pick one small step and take action on it.
When they’re ready to hear it, help your child recognize the good around them. An attitude of gratitude will go a long way. Focus on the good in the situation (even if it’s tiny)! For instance, we’ve all got to spend a lot more time than normal together as families – mark the moments of laughter, joy, and happiness that we otherwise would not have had in our busy “normal” lives.
Finally, we heard across the board that as parents and adults we need to focus strongly on mental health support right now and for the coming few years. Not only have these kids had a huge jolt but they are also trying to live through a scary, uncertain time for everyone. They must now confront the threats of illness, family financial uncertainty, and even the prospect of not being able to go to college in the fall.
These are all big issues all on their own – packed together in one moment is a lot for anyone to handle. It’s okay to ask for help. Start with your health care provider or school counselor, they should be able to direct you to a help line or online counseling service to get started. Encourage your senior to talk with other trusted adults like coaches, teachers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, or their friend’s parents. Be open and honest about your feelings and give them space to express everything they’re going through.
We will get through this and from all of us at The Good Grocer . . . Congratulations to the Class of 2020!! We know you will do great things.