How to Help a High School Student Cope With a Short Year

Think back to your last year in high school. When spring came, you were practically homeless and could finally experience the joy of “seniority” — going to school and seeing friends — while having lower academic expectations. Plus, there were so many important events to look forward to, such as prom, graduation, and any other tradition your school may have had. But now, thanks to the coronavirus outbreak, many high school (college) and seniors are coming to terms with skipping it all.

Sure, there are Zoom classes and FaceTime group chats, but of course they are not the same thing. And if you are the parent of a high school student, it will be difficult to look at. You’ve seen your child work so hard for so long just to celebrate their high school success. While you may feel helpless, there are ways to ease this situation a little. Lifehacker spoke with mental health and education experts to find out how parents can help their high school students cope with a shrinking school year.

Admit and Affirm Your Grief

Whether you realize it or not, your high school graduate may be grieving over the loss of his final year of high school, and all the milestones that come with it. The first thing parents need to do is be aware of and sensitive to the loss of their child. “Losing such an important moment in your life is devastating, and it’s important to empathize with your teen during this confusing time,” says Lifehacker Prairie Conlon, licensed practicing psychiatrist and clinical director at CertaPet . In addition, Bethany Raab , a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in treating adolescents, says the most important thing parents can do now is validate their child’s feelings.

Do not project

For the past 13 years, not only your child, but also you have been hard at school. And because of this, you can also grieve. In the end, you are taken away from the opportunity to see your child walk around the stage at graduation and receive their diploma, as well as take awkward photos before graduation in the courtyard before graduation. But Marnie Pasch , a seasoned school counselor turned academic coach, cautions parents not to forget if they are projecting their emotions onto their child. “The abandonment of school traditions can also be traumatic for parents, especially for first-generation parents, and it is important to assess whether a child shares the parents’ emotions,” she tells Lifehacker. “Parents should also take time to acknowledge their own frustrations.”

Ask them what they need

As much as you would like to play your role of guardian / protector, first consult with your child and ask him what he needs right. If they just want to be left alone to play video games, don’t try to push them. “Don’t force the conversation, but let your teen know that you are ready to listen when he wants to talk,” says Raab. “Don’t give too much advice yet – we really don’t know enough to give long-term advice at this point.”

Yes, it can be hard to hear that they don’t need your help right now, it’s even harder to see how upset your child is, but when it comes to dealing with a loss at the end of their high school career, let them take the lead. “We hate when our children have negative feelings and we try to talk them out of it. Do not do this! It doesn’t help them, ”psychoanalyst Claudia Luis tells Lifehacker. “This is a chance to help children feel good even when the feelings are not so rosy.”

Find other ways to attend colleges

Among other things, high school students who decide to go to college now have to decide where to go. Although for some schools this deadline may be as early as mid-March , traditionally May 1 was the last day to receive proposals. But at the moment, some universities are postponing this until June 1 due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. Not all colleges do this, so be sure to check what your child is choosing to see what their policies are.

There is also the problem of going to college. While some people may have been ahead of everyone else and started attending college in their first or even sophomore year, not everyone is in the same boat. So what should you do if you haven’t started college yet and need to submit your consent?

“A lot of colleges and universities are moving towards some kind of virtual experience for students,” Jamie Park, a college planning consultant at Advantage College Planning , told Lifehacker. “For many, virtual tours are already available – YouVisit and Campus Reel are good resources for that. Others are preparing a kind of virtual event for the admission of applicants. I recommend that students try to tune in to them if possible. ” Pak also suggests taking a car tour of the campus if it’s close to where you live. No, you won’t be able to sample food in the cafeteria, but at least you will get an idea of ​​what this place looks like if you haven’t seen it yet.

And keep in mind that the university admissions office is still up and running (although probably from home for now). Feel free to contact them with any questions and they will do their best to help. Additionally, Mikaela Schiffer, an independent Moon Prep consultant at the college, recommends that high school students use social media to help with the process. “It’s also a great practice to follow your top schools on social media as universities are likely to increase their online presence during this time and may offer additional virtual tours,” she told Lifehacker.

In a similar vein, Collin Ganjan, founder of DC College Counseling, notes that assessing your universities’ response to the coronavirus can be very revealing. “It’s actually a great way to gauge how an institution is handling a crisis and can provide more insight into the inner workings of a given college or university than any other source,” she tells Lifehacker. “How well has each school on your list done their best to support their students? For example, some schools gave students stipends to pay for their belongings to be sent home, while others did not allow students to leave their dorms during spring break and essentially told them to take care of themselves. ”

Get creative

No, you can’t have your child’s prom in the backyard – and besides, the prom doesn’t quite follow the rules of physical distance – but there are some creative ways to try and make the next few months a little more bearable. But check with your child first before doing anything like this. Perhaps they still need their space, and if they are not thrilled with your ideas, it can only make matters worse. For example, you can have a mini prom in your home or backyard and use Zoom or FaceTime so your friends and family can be virtually present.

I’m 100 percent sure that if the end of my senior year in high school were interrupted, my mom would come up with some ridiculous, bordering on annoyance activities, such as hosting a polka prom in the kitchen. for our family, singing a vaudeville song and dance about how things could actually be much worse, or reading a list of “superlatives” where I get everything from “Likely to succeed” to “The woman with the greatest the amount of facial hair “On” Most likely, will give me many grandchildren, by God’s will. ” There is no need to go into details, but if your high school graduate really wants to do something to celebrate their graduation, ask them how they would prefer to do it.


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