I originally planned to write this blog on how parents and students can prepare for the “End of Year” activities. A major aspect of COVID-19 is the impact this will have on high school seniors. I honestly cannot fathom how high school seniors are processing on losing out on the best part of high school. It is also important to consider how families are processing the cancellation of these events as well. Parents should give their children the opportunity to express their feelings on mourning the loss of senior year.
Many people have heard that grief is a process. Grief does not only have to pertain to the loss of a loved one. Anyone would feel a sense of loss if the situation they have hoped and dream for suddenly went away with no fault of their own. I believe that this is what makes this time so heartbreaking to seniors and their families. The COVID-19 epidemic was not anyone’s fault; however, millions of lives have already been changed. There are five stages in the Kübler-Ross model of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. It will be critical for parents to let their children go through each stage, while offering unwavering support. Parents should also reassure their children that educators are working around the clock to make sure that high school seniors do not miss out on all the end of year experiences.
Understanding Your Child’s Needs
While I am sure most seniors are upset about the current circumstances, parents should not be alarmed if their child is not as upset as expected. It is important for children to understand we all handle loss differently. For your child, maybe they are more interested in what the future has to offer rather than the present. If your child does not want to talk about what they are feeling, that is okay too. It will benefit your child to let them process their feelings on their own to build resilience. I believe it is important for seniors to continue to engage with each other online. Parents should encourage their children to continue to reach out to their friends, within reason, to foster a sense of community. Finally, parents and families have posted on the internet fun and interesting ways on how you can celebrate this time with your child. I saw a video of a girl in her prom dress while she and her family danced in the living room. There was another video of another student in her cap and gown and her family created a graduation ceremony for her.
Talking with the School
For many educators, they are also mourning the loss of senior year. There are teachers and coaches who have spent much time with students who may not see them graduate. As of now, schools across the country are planning on how they can give high school seniors the experience they deserve. If you have not heard what may be planned, it will be important to call the school to gather that information. In addition, many schools are tentatively pushing graduations into the late summer. Parents and seniors should be aware if this coincides with students needing to move into college. To reduce any anxiety parents may be feeling about making this time special, parents should also get information on how or if the school plans to honor students in the meantime.
What Can the Community Do?
Now more than ever, it is apparent that putting the needs of others first will only make us stronger. I feel that it is up to the community to do what it can to support high school seniors during this time. I have seen on Facebook where people are “adopting seniors” and sending them graduation care packages. Things in the package include college t-shirts and graduation decorations for the outside the students’ house. There are also other ideas neighborhoods and communities could plan. One, would be to have all the high school seniors to dress up in their caps and gowns and to walk down their neighborhood street. Neighbors would have the opportunity to offer their congratulations, but also while engaging in social distancing. Another idea would be to have a “car parade” where neighbors drive past the house of a high school senior while honking their horns and waiving signs. I think if anything, it is important for seniors to have as close to a normal experience as possible.
In conclusion, this should be a much happier time for those in the world of education. Parents should be prepared for their child to display a range of emotional reactions, while mourning the loss of senior year. Even though things are not the norm, it is important for children that we maintain as much consistency as possible. All high school seniors should feel happy about their accomplishments, despite enduring COVID-19. It will be up to the parents, educators, and community leaders to make sure that these students are able to celebrate themselves.