Real Talk: How to Support Your H.S. Seniors When Everything Is Canceled

Trish Sammer Updated on March 21, 2020

Hello NitroCollege Community,

Oh, the times we're living in right now. Remember last week, when we were still talking about SATs and college selection? A week later and here we are ... with our high school seniors staring down the prospect of potentially missing out on half of their last year of high school and all the milestone events that go with it. 

So what now? As of today, many high schools have not yet announced plans for the rest of the school year. What can parents do to help kids who feel like they're getting shortchanged in a way that most of us can't fully imagine? As this situation evolves, here are some things to keep in mind.

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1. Recognize that they might not know what they're feeling

Dealing with uncertainty can be hard enough for adults. Right now, our teens are saddled with immense uncertainty at the same time they're making the transition from childhood to adulthood. Worse, many of them are physically cut off from their usual peer-support networks. It's a big load to carry.

High school seniors are probably feeling a range of emotions, including stress, anger, fear, boredom, and denial. Those feelings may manifest in all kinds of unexpected ways, from general moodiness to full-on outbursts. Remember that unusual behavior may be a sign of other things that are bubbling under the surface. Try to deal with these episodes with some extra compassion. 

This recent article in The Washington Post provides some helpful insight for parents. 

2. Let them grieve

If milestone events are canceled, kids may be dealing with more than a sense of disappointment. Rather, they may feel a sense of loss that's more akin to grief. They've moved toward certain events their whole lives. It was their turn for prom, graduation, and all the other things prior classes got to do. Why were these things ripped out from under them? How is that fair? 

The answer is, of course, that it's not. And no, missing prom is not the biggest tragedy that people are being forced to endure right now, but that doesn't mean it doesn't matter. Kids have a right to be sad.

Watching your child move through uncomfortable emotions is hard for us as parents, but give them the space they need to feel bad for a while. Don't try to cheer them up right away. Listen when they're ready to talk. Don't minimize their feelings.

To gain some perspective on what kids are dealing with, read this open letter to high school seniors from a Louisiana teacher who had his senior year derailed by Hurricane Katrina. 

3. Encourage meditation

Meditation can be an especially effective way for us to feel more in-control of ourselves when everything else is out of control. 

Headspace and Calm are popular apps to help newbie meditators get started in just a few minutes a day. You can also check out this article in Vox featuring Tara Brach, a psychologist and meditation teacher. She some excellent insight on how meditation can be useful right now, as well as some easy techniques to try on your own. 

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About the Author
Trish Sammer

Trish Sammer is Nitro's managing editor. Her work has appeared in Woman’s Day, Redbook, Huffington Post, TechCrunch, and Forbes. She has also written for various corporate clients, including the tech giant SAP, The Franklin Institute, and PSE&G. When Trish isn’t busy acting as a writing ninja for other people, you can find her … well, writing about other stuff, like divorce and blended family life. She lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband, their combined brood, and the world’s laziest dog. Read more by Trish Sammer

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