Do you remember the last semester of your senior year? Do you remember your senior pictures, senior prom, last dances, final performances, last games, senior skip day, finals, the last day of school, graduation, and graduation parties? We probably have some great memories of these final days of high school, the final days of our childhood.
This year there will be a class of students who will not have the opportunity to participate in most if not all of these activities because of the devastating Covidvirus. Covid has stolen these significant moments. The events of a student’s final semester of high school are not just things students get to do to finish their high school career, its a rite of passage. It is a time for students to say goodbye to their childhood and launch into the next phase of their life. It is a time when they begin to stretch their wings and begin to fly.
Rites of passages are significant moments in our lives that propel us forward in and into adulthood; the first day of school, transitioning into middle school, getting our driver’s license, registering to vote, going off to college, buying our first car, living on our own, getting married. These events help us grow emotionally and mentally. They are moments that are cemented in our minds and hearts.
The transition from High School to the next phase of life (college or career) is one of the most significant transitions in our lives. It is when we know we are now adults and need to take on more responsibilities for our lives. Without this rite of passage, it has the potential to stunt a student’s growth towards adulthood. This is why the last semester of a student’s senior year is one of the most significant Rites of Passage of them all. This event makes it clear that things will not be the same again. A student has to move on, there is no going back, they are now entering an adulthood. It is a time to say goodbye. Students have been looking forward to these moments for most of their lives. Missing these moments is no small matter and we need to be aware of it, walk through it with our seniors, and do what we can to launch them forward.
Covid has stolen these moments, but we need to creatively reclaim it.:
1) They need space to vent. Chances are there are a lot of emotions just below the surface. Anything from anger, disappointment, fear, and sadness. Provide a safe space for them to voice their feelings. You may need to make the effort more than once before they begin to share, but when they do, be ready to just listen. Don’t take their emotions or feelings lightly or trivialize missing these moments. Know that each student will react differently. Some will be ok and move on. Still, others will need a safe place to voice their emotions. Let them mourn. Don’t try to explain away, minimize it, or try to fix it. Just listen to understand and empathize with them.
2) At a different time than above, ask your student, what do they want to do to celebrate their graduation or their last semester of High school? Some families have hosted their own “stay prom” where the family gets dressed up, complete with a dance, and dinner. Maybe your student didn’t get a chance to compete in their last track meet, when you are allowed, have them run their last race with you all cheering them on. Be creative and have your student help plan it. It is hard to replace the high school experience, but what are we willing to do for our sons and daughters so that they can reclaim some of these moments?
3) Provide your own unique rite of passage for your student to affirm them becoming an adult and passing from childhood to adulthood. Make it an event they won’t forget! Affirm who they are as a young man or woman, highlight moments you are proud of in their lives, relive the high school years from the first day of school to all of their events and activities they were involved in. Decorate the house, invite others to participate via Zoom or have others send meaningful letters.
Yes, this is a very difficult time for us all. Covid has stolen some very important moments in our student’s lives, but let us not give up without a fight. A fight our students need us to engage in for their sake, their emotional stability, and for their future.
What creative ideas do you have to help students launch successfully from High School into the next phase of life?