Helping Your Students Deal with Unexpected Cancellations

Helping Your Students Deal with Unexpected Cancellations

Last week, the COVID-19 virus was officially declared a pandemic and a national emergency in the U.S. Public health recommendations to stay home and avoid large groups of people immediately resulted in school closures across the U.S., with many schools already canceling the remainder of their spring semester.

Last week, the COVID-19 virus was officially declared a pandemic and a national emergency in the U.S. Public health recommendations to stay home and avoid large groups of people immediately resulted in school closures across the U.S., with many schools already canceling the remainder of their spring semester.

Author Nadia Bolz-Weber described this time as a “pandemic of human disappointment,” and high school and college students are feeling the sting of these disappointments. 

Proms, sports seasons, SATs, graduations, and many other types of events have been cancelled. It’s the right thing to do to keep as many people as possible safe and healthy. But for many students, it’s heartbreaking.

Families and schools are brainstorming creative ways to compensate for these cancellations and continue researching colleges they’re interested in. 

Here are some ideas from around the country that you might be able to implement in your own town.


Be Empathetic

Chances are, your high school or college student is upset.

Maybe their high school musical was canceled.

Maybe the spring sports season is a no-go. 

Maybe they were hurriedly sent home from a semester abroad. 

Students weren’t expecting for their lives to be turned upside down, and many teens are devastated about everything that has been canceled.

What does your student need from you during this time? 

In short, empathy.

Acknowledge and validate their feelings: “I know you’re disappointed to miss prom. I’m so sorry your spring break trip was canceled. You must really miss your friends right now.” Give your child space to be sad and upset. 

Many students are currently experiencing what Empty Nest Nation describes as ambiguous grief — loss that occurs without closure or clear understanding, such as graduating high school or college without a graduation ceremony.

You can help your child by listening to them and affirming their feelings. Eventually, encourage them to move on — but if your student needs to be sad for a few days, respect that, too.  


Celebrate Anyway

Just because your student’s prom or graduation was canceled doesn’t mean they won’t get to have a prom or graduation. It just might look a little different. 

Plus, some schools hold graduation in June and haven’t made a decision yet. Remind your student that life will eventually return to normal — and use your time at home to brainstorm some ways to celebrate when it does!

Communities around the U.S. are getting creative planning alternatives to canceled events. 

For students whose proms have been canceled, many parents plan to chip in and rent a venue this summer to let kids enjoy their dance, or to host a fancy dinner party. 

A virtual fashion show could also be a fun quarantine activity for girls who have already bought prom dresses. Many dresses can be worn again in college, so don’t worry about the money.  

For canceled graduations, some communities are planning to host a virtual graduation or plan a ceremony or senior walk later in the summer. 

Reach out to local community organizations and churches to see if they’d like to help celebrate and honor local seniors. Cap and gown photoshoots can take place in a few months, too. Students involved in the yearbook club might enjoy working together virtually to create memory books on Shutterfly or Snapfish. 

Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, people are getting creative offering virtual opportunities for extracurricular activities. 

For example, if your high schooler is missing their musical or play, check out the #SunshineSongs hashtag on Twitter. Created by Broadway actress Laura Benanti, the hashtag is a way for high school musical theatre students to post clips of their high school musical. Well-known Broadway actors like Lin-Manuel Miranda are keeping up with the videos. 

Finally, for high school seniors who are missing these last few months with their friends, many parents are planning fun activities throughout the summer.

Multiple families could each host one activity, such as a class picnic, pool party, movie night, or bonfire. 

Make good use of the time you have on your hands right now to plan these events. Your student will get excited and you’ll have less prep work to do when party time comes around. 


Use Your Downtime

If your college tours or admissions fairs were canceled, use your downtime at home to research schools you’re interested in. Many colleges offer virtual tours, and college counselors might be willing to meet with you virtually as well. Helpful websites and resources include:

This is also an important time to observe the schools on your list and see how they react to a national emergency.

How are they responding to this crisis with their current students? Are schools refunding room and board costs? Providing packing materials and storage space? Communicating well? It’s important to know what measures colleges have in place for emergencies and how they treat their students during stressful times.

You can also use this time at home to make memories as a family — especially if your child is a high school senior. Plan some fun at-home activities such as movie nights, trying new recipes, or playing board games together. One day, your family might look back at the Coronavirus quarantine as an important time when everyone came together.


Don’t Panic

If your high schooler missed the SAT/ACT, sign up for the June test (or October, for juniors). Some colleges have even completely scrapped SAT requirements in light of the test cancellations. Students who will have another opportunity to test can keep studying and preparing as much as possible. 

Finally, keep in mind that everyone is in the same boat. If you’re worried about your student’s future, don’t be! College admissions offices and other officials will understand. 

Things are out of our control and no one is going to blame or penalize your student for what’s happening right now. 

During these stressful times, continue brainstorming college essays and being productive with admissions tasks — but take some time to relax as a family, too. 

Reassure your student that the Coronavirus pandemic will end. And when it does, they will still be able to experience everything they’ve been looking forward to, even if prom or graduation will look a little different than how they thought. 





Hailey Hudson

Hailey Hudson is a full-time freelance writer based out of Atlanta, Georgia. She has written for clients such as Barnes & Noble Education, Practical Homeschooling Magazine, and Catholic Diocese of Schools.