There is no denying it: COVID-19 impacts milestones.
High school students were excited about school closures. They saw it as a “get out of jail free” card.
A much-wanted reprieve. Then they realized that the closure was indefinite, very likely until the end of the academic year.
Reality set in as they realized how COVID-19 impacts milestones, and it was no longer looked at as a “novelty.”
This is even more acute for high school seniors who have looked forward their whole high school lives for this year. Senior year is a capstone year; the year when high schoolers come into themselves and transition into college and adult life.
So, how has COVID-19 impacted these milestones?
Let’s take a look.
Why are Milestones Important?
Many milestones that teens face aren’t necessarily developmental milestones, but more rites of passage.
As a result, many families build celebrations around these rites of passage.
These celebrations give additional significance to these events.
COVID-19 impacts milestones as teens miss these milestones and corresponding events, robbing them of the chance to create important memories, and their families the chance to celebrate with them.
While students aren’t lamenting the cancellations of their tests, it’s indeed an important academic milestone.
Also, there are students who have worked very hard to study for these tests and they want the opportunity to demonstrate their preparedness. This may definitely be the case for students taking AP classes.
Fortunately, SAT dates for the next three months mostly affect high school juniors who will hopefully have other opportunities to take the test in summer and fall.
Seniors can only commit to and attend one college, but attending as many college tours as possible is the point.
Road trip! Well, at least, that was what they anticipated.
COVID-19 impacts milestones as college tours have been cancelled for the foreseeable future. Juniors are forced to wait until fall to visit college campuses and will very likely have to cut back on the number they visit due to limited time. There are ways to research colleges without seeing them in person, however, being there was what it was all about.
COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on varsity spring sports. Sports like baseball, softball, volleyball, track and field, and lacrosse have all been cancelled for this period.
Think about these teen athletes who have put in hours of practice and training, only to see the season cancelled basically overnight.
An even bigger issue is the team captains who have waited and worked their entire high school lives to assume leadership of their teams.
Having the season canceled robbed them of their well-earned chance to lead and shine. There may also be implications for recruitment to play a college sport and receive an athletic scholarship.
Just as important as varsity sports are pep rallies. And you don’t have to be a cheerleader to understand this.
Pep rallies provide important school spirit and support for varsity teams.
While many students may not list it as a number one activity, participating in a pep rally is an important high school milestone.
The camaraderie these rallies engender as students cheer on their home team and make fun of their rivals, is all part of the unique high school experience.
While students participate in spirit week every year, they take on added significance when it’s senior year. It’s literally the LAST spirit week of their high school experience, and definitely a milestone.
Many seniors (and their schools) create elaborate plans for spirit week of their senior year. Missing this activity is just another experience that they will lose.
What’s a sixteenth birthday without a learner’s permit?
What is senior year without a valid driver’s license?
Whether they will have a car of their own or not, every teen wants bragging rights with a driver’s license.
With most cities and towns under quarantine and lock downs, most DMVs are operating on skeleton staff and not offering their full slate of services. This may very likely include driving tests.
The many teens whose birthdays fall at a the time that they are under quarantine with severely restricted movements will have to put yet one more milestone on hold.
This is the much-anticipated overnight trip of senior year. The coming together of friends out of town and overnight gives the event a lot of clout. Add to that, many schools require that students meet certain criteria to participate.
So, it’s not just a senior trip, it’s a privilege.
COVID-19 impacts milestones as just about all senior trips across the country will definitely be cancelled.
This is one of the biggest hits.
Prom night isn’t just a high school milestone, but a life milestone. And it’s not just prom night, it’s all the months and weeks leading up to that memorable night.
Getting the date, dress (and tuxedo) shopping, prom send-off when all the participants gather together at a senior parent’s house or nearby park to revel in the moment and take photos…and the works.
The excitement, the anticipation!
School closures have shuttered all these plans for seniors across the country.
Now seniors will only have their graduation pictures and any candid shots from earlier on in the school year to document this once-in-a-lifetime period.. Not having prom pictures is a big blow.
Parents and grandparents love graduations!
It’s that bittersweet time where we celebrate our kids’ accomplishments, while lamenting the fact that they’re leaving us. It’s as much a milestone for teens as it is for parents.
All schools have not yet made official announcements about cancellations, but many have and it’s highly likely that a slew of other schools will follow suit. Alas, there will be no in-person graduations this year. “Pomp and Circumstance” will have to be broadcast on Youtube. It is an understatement to say that this is a big loss to the Class of 2020.
How to Handle the Loss of Milestones
Some of these milestones can be salvaged, while others cannot.
Your teen will very likely have the option of completing their driving test during the summer.
For juniors, there will always be next season for varsity sports, pep rallies, and spirit week.
But for our seniors, it’s almost a lost cause.
While graduation pictures have already been taken, the pride of wearing that gown and strutting across that stage to collect their high school diploma will be lost.
Yes, the school community and families will try to compensate with intimate gatherings. Some fortunate seniors in smaller towns which may not be as hard hit by the COVID-19 outbreak, may be able to have graduation ceremonies in the summer.
But the great majority will be missing out.
School closure due to COVID-19 is not a snow day. It’s a crisis.
Our children need our support in these difficult times. Relying on evidence-based practices of social emotional learning may be the answer.
COVID-19 affects milestones and will leave an indelible footprint on the hearts and minds of our children
We need to be prepared to recognize the different ways that disappointment, fear, stress, and even anger, will manifest in them.
Social distancing is effective in protecting our physical health but it will impact the psychosocial health of teens who are used to frequent social hangouts with friends.
Lean into the proven practices of social emotional learning, particularly the Ruler Approach.
This will help us navigate these uncharted waters in a newly social-distanced world, and hopefully mitigate negative effects on our teens’ emotional well-being.
Most importantly, don’t downplay your seniors’ disappointment. Don’t tell them that they should be grateful to survive a pandemic unscathed.
They are grateful.
But they are allowed to wallow a bit. No trip or surprise gift will compensate for missing a much-anticipated series of events.
COVID-19 impacts milestones, yearbooks, and cherished memories. We are hopeful that these kids are resilient enough to rise above this, and will eventually move on to the rest of their lives where other, exciting and meaningful experiences will flourish.
But we cannot discount what they are missing out on now occurring now, and because of that, the Class of 2020 won’t be the same.
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