Senior Year Coronavirus Cancellations: Supporting Your Grieving Student

sad student coronavirus cancellations

High schools and colleges all over the country have closed due to the risk of Coronavirus transmission — some for a few weeks, some indefinitely. Many families don’t think schools will reopen this semester at all. In response, over the last week, we’ve seen lots of our friends and families posting this piece on their social media:

If there is a high school senior in your life, give them a hug or if you can’t, just pray for them. To them, the cancellation of school is not a vacation. It’s wasted time they don’t get to spend with their friends the last few months before graduation. They’re anxious, realizing they may not get to walk the halls one last time, do their special senior festivities or attend their last prom. They’re sad they may not get to walk the stage and get that diploma they’ve been working so hard for the past 12 years. Show them support and love them during these hard times. #ClassOf2020.

Viral Social Media Posting

Senior Year Interrupted

During these difficult times, we’re well aware that everything we’ve been telling students to look forward to has now been canceled or changed significantly. “Get to that spring semester senior year!” we’ve said. The prom, final tests, and those last moments with friends have all just vanished.

And it’s not just high school events. Those special college acceptance moments, like admitted student visits (which we’ve always stressed attending), have been canceled as well. We’re all having to pivot and find different ways to make these experiences still special, and teachers and administrators are scurrying to create online curricula that will still satisfy requirements.

RELATED: How Telemedicine Can Help Your Student

We’re all stressed and sad and scared by the prospect of illness. So, besides just social media shout-outs, how do you support your student as they face senior year Coronavirus cancellations?

Supporting Your Graduating Student Through Coronavirus Cancellations

SCV spoke with Lee McMichael, LCSW, a family therapist specializing in family and trauma therapy in Bowling Green, KY. McMichael is also mom to graduating senior, Brendan. She’s wearing two hats through this time: Trying to find healthy communication tools for her clients and family, as well as mourning along with her son for his losses this spring. She gave us these tips and talking points.

Don’t Minimize Their Grief

Telling your teen to look at the “bigger picture” of keeping their community safe isn’t going to help. “Their whole world is their school and their friends. This is the bigger picture for them,” says McMichael. “And their grief is real and valid.”

They might channel their frustration at you, the parent and the adult. You might be seen as the barrier, denying them the opportunity to “just go see one person or go to one place.” Try and keep your patience with them.

Give your teen the tools to talk to their friends on video chats. There’s comfort in talking out their frustrations with peers. Mourn their lost prom or sports season with them.

Transitions Are Already Difficult

“It’s during the big transitions. like high school to college, when we see kids in therapy,” says McMichael. “There’s a lot to figure out, and now, it’s even more difficult, because no one really has any answers or a timeline.”

As such, give your student time to process and vent their frustrations. Don’t push them. This time was already going to be full of highs and lows, without the changes.

It’s Not Just YOU or Just THEM. It’s Everyone.

Importantly, McMichael says that during the hardest “what if” and “how will we manage” moments, she remembers that Brendan’s future university and his peers will have all gone through the same situation. “I remember that this situation is not isolated to my senior or my area. It feels like it is! But everyone will go to college with their own stories and find community and belonging together through their losses.”

Senior year Coronavirus cancellations will become a “war story” of sorts for these students, and really, all of us. Importantly, it will also change them, probably for the better. They’ll learn how to adapt quickly, and they’ll find that they are resilient. It’s an unprecedented “real world” experience for all of us.

Visit our special coronavirus article page.

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