By Samantha Congdon, LMFT
Today is the day when one chapter closes and another one opens. You hold the memories of your past and begin to make steps towards your future. You are about to embark on a new journey as you walk the stage with your cap in place and your gown perfectly pressed. Today is graduation day. For many seniors, graduating high school or college during the current pandemic means missing milestones and public recognition for their achievements.
Many graduating traditions are being canceled for our beloved graduates and they are mourning the loss. Dr. Ludmila De Faria, a psychiatrist with Florida State University, shares the importance of parents taking the loss of graduation seriously and trying to help their young adult process their feelings. She shares how graduation is the onset to an important developmental milestone, where young adults begin to develop their identities, move away from home, learn to take care of themselves, and create new support groups. It is the next big step in a young adult’s life and missing it can elicit an array of feelings, such as frustration, sadness, and worry.
How can parents help? “Parents should recognize that for many young people, graduation is the biggest thing they have experienced in their lives,” (www.npr.org). Simply listening and creating a space where your young adult’s feelings are acknowledged is essential. Encourage them to stay connected with their friends and take advantage of the different shared online activities they can engage in, such as group chats, video movie nights, etc. Also, parents can help their young adult shift awareness to the things they do have control over in their lives.
While COVID19 regulation may require schools to cancel graduation ceremonies, it does not mean that they cannot still be celebrated. The University of Vermont created a list of ways to celebrate your graduate. For instance, host your own graduation ceremony at home. Set up a video chat with friends and family and have everyone dress up. If your school sends the diploma in the mail, celebrate the opening of that letter virtually with all your friends and family. The fun does not have to stop there. Have your young adult be their own valedictorian sharing their favorite memories from school, or find an inspiring commencement speech online. The pandemic may stop us from partaking in past traditions, but today we have a unique opportunity to get creative and adapt these traditions to address our current lifestyles.
Canceled Birthday Party? No Graduation? Tips on Celebrating Missed Milestones During COVID-19. March 26,2020. University of Vermont Medical Center. https://www.uvmhealth.org/pages/coronavirus/staying-healthy/missed-milestones.aspx
Kerr, E. Coronavirus and College Graduation: What to Know. March 20,2020. U.S. News.https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/coronavirus-and-college-graduation-what-to-know
Neighmond, R. With Senior Year in Disarray, Teens and Young adults feeling lost. Here’s How to Help. April, 19, 2020. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/04/19/837077850/with-senior-year-in-disarray-teens-and-young-adults-feel-lost-heres-how-to-help