The COVID-19 outbreak has utterly changed day-to-day life as we know it. A simple trip to the grocery store is no longer an act to take for granted. Among these novel changes is the unequivocal loss of normalcy that many Americans feel. As schools and workplaces across the country shut their doors, many families face weeks of self-isolation at home. With isolation comes a sense of loss of routine and anticipated events that will no longer take place. One subsect of Americans that are subject to significant loss are graduating high school seniors. In working with a few of my high school clients, the loss is gravely apparent.
There is anxiety about the unknown of when/if school will resume before graduation season. There is also fear that there may not be a much-anticipated prom which lends to lost opportunities to shop for prom dresses and tuxedos, cancelled dinner plans with friends, as well as cancelled ‘last hoorahs’ with childhood friends. Some seniors even wonder if they will have a chance to walk the halls of their high school for one last time before they graduate. And then there is graduation: will there be graduation ceremonies? Will groups of graduates across the country be denied the rite of passage of walking across the stage to obtain their diplomas.
The anticipation of loss is immense. If you know and care for a high school senior, perhaps consider the following aspects when interacting with him/her.
- Practice Empathy: Try to acknowledge your senior’s loss. Pause to reflect on your own senior year experience, if applicable. Take note of how you cherish those memories and why those memories are meaningful to you. Now place yourself in your senior’s shoes. Allow this empathy to guide how you interact and respond to their expressed feelings.
- Validate: There is true value in providing a safe place for feelings to be expressed. Rather than trying to problem solve and ‘fix’ your senior’s feelings of anxiety or fears, just simply listen to them and provide comfort.
Give space to grieve: As a parent or guardian of a child, it can be tough to watch him/her suffer or struggle with something emotionally difficult. Rather than diving in and trying to problem solve, just be present and supportive of your senior. He or she may grieve these losses in ways that may seem odd to you. But that is alright, provided that those ways of coping are safe and not self-harming.
For questions or if you are in need of a space to explore feelings related to the COVID-19 outbreak, please contact the Amy Wine Counseling Center at (832) 421-8714.