700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

What to Do If Your High School Senior Is Struggling Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

Apr 27, 2020
Mom and teenage daughter

Many students are struggling emotionally during this time of uncertainty. High school students are experiencing frustration, sadness or feelings of being overwhelmed during this time. Senior year is filled with many celebrations with families and peers and is also a transition period for the next phase of their lives.

Parents and students are likely experiencing confusion as they attempt to understand how social distancing and school shutdowns impact deadlines and tasks related to post-graduation plans for technical school, college or armed services. If you have a senior in your life you are likely confused about where to start to help and support them.

Here are some feelings and thoughts many high school seniors might experience:

Grief or anger - Many seniors are aware that this is the last few months that they had to spend with their peers. Their plans are uncertain and they feel like they may not get the closure they planned.

Anxiety, worry or hopelessness - Some schools and districts have not given a lot of direction on how school shutdowns impact graduation requirements. Some students are overwhelmed at the thought that they may not be able to graduate as planned.

Disconnected - Students may have relied on school supports such as principals, teachers and school counselors to help them navigate their post-graduation plan.

Invisible - Health concerns are a priority during the pandemic as they should be. The impact on emotional well-being specific to those transitioning to new phases of life can be easily overlooked as we focus on vulnerable populations and flattening the curve.

Guilt - Some students may feel guilty for their feelings or sharing their concerns.

Numb - It is possible that your student has not yet processed how they feel or considered the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic.

How Can Parents and Caregivers Help?

Family check-in - Check in with each other daily at a minimum. Feelings and emotions can change from day-to-day or moment-to-moment. Check-in provides permission and opportunities to discuss and process any new emotions.

Communicate with school staff - Check in with school websites or email school staff to be sure you are up-to-date on all plans and expectations.

Set expectations and maintain a daily schedule - In this time of uncertainty, it is important that we maintain as much normalcy as possible. Lead by example and help adolescents create a schedule so that they are tending to schoolwork and household chores.

Make sure your child is still active - Encourage physical activity, mindfulness and brain stimulation. Include these activities in the daily schedule. Also, consider making the activities fun by setting some sort of family challenge.

Create new traditions - Most of us are spending more time with our families. We can use this time to create new family traditions and activities. Trying new recipes or creating menu themes are just a few examples.

Creative celebrations - High school seniors are missing out on some of their milestone celebrations. Families can be creative with celebrations at home. Virtual parties, special meals and written expressions to celebrate your teen are just a few examples. Also, don’t forget to celebrate the small things!

What Can Students Do?

Maintain contact with peers - Social distancing doesn’t mean total isolation. Maintain contact with peers through phone calls, social media or video conferencing. Peers can be resources for each other during this difficult time.

Pick up a new hobby or learn something new - You likely have more time on your hands. Use the free time to learn a new skill or hobby that might be beneficial in the future. At the very minimum, you are challenging yourself and trying something new.

Read a book - Reading helps keep the mind busy and helps with brain stimulation.

Maintain hygiene and a daily schedule - Keeping up with normal schedules and routines helps with emotion regulation, energy and overall self-esteem.

Reach out for new opportunities - Some industries are seeing growth during this time. A number of businesses are hiring or looking for interns to assist with this growth. Some of these opportunities are virtual and could be helpful with skill-building and planning for future career and vocational plans.

Follow up on plans for post-graduation - Senior year can be hectic and overwhelming with tasks.This downtime is an opportunity to follow up on any tasks related to post-graduate plans. Follow-up on acceptances into programs and financial aid. Students can also research how institutions have handled the pandemic and reprioritize their plans and colleges.

Self-care - Don’t forget to take care of yourself! Proactively plan activities that will help with mood regulation. Pay attention to shifts in moods and feelings. Identify a support person and reach out to them as needed. Keep regular sleep and eating schedules.

This is a difficult time for everyone. Pay a little extra attention to the high school senior in your life. Many of us consider our high school senior year as a seminal event and have lots of good memories and stories to tell. Although it won’t be typical compared to previous years we can certainly make members of the Class of 2020 feel special, celebrated and loved. Let’s all do our part to make sure that they also have good memories and stories to tell!

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Kamilah Twymon, LPCC-S
Behavioral Health

Kamilah Twymon, LPCC-S has been part of the Behavioral Health team at Nationwide Children's Hospital since 2007 and is currently the clinical coordinator of the School Based Program and Community Partnerships. She collaborates with Columbus, Bexley and Canal Winchester school districts along with several community partners on wellness and prevention efforts.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.