I so enjoyed this helpful article in the New York Times that I want to share it with you during this time of 2020 graduations and upcoming summers during the pandemic — and to add some ideas and support of my own that I’ve learned working with teens.
2020 graduates are not celebrating this huge accomplishment and milestone the usual way, with the formal ceremony — that feeling of walking across the stage in cap and robe, those last goodbyes to friends and teachers, hugging family and friends A LOT, and of course the parties.
Family and friend gift-giving, as well as how those gifts will be used, is really different now. So what can we do to show our grads our pride and love?
A future get together or special experience
One graduate says, “The greatest gift can be just spending time with the ones you love,” and Emma Lingo, an 18-year-old from MO, “wants to make up for experiences she lost because of the pandemic. “I missed out on a lot at the end of senior year, from banquets to bonfires,” she told the Times.
So how about giving them a gift certificate for an experience they can have after the pandemic, such as a favorite restaurant, visit to an aquarium, or even a trip?
A laptop or other digital device
The new experience for these grads, whether they are about to go to college, start a job or go for further training, will not be an on-site, live one for perhaps a long time. Some students have been using the family computer at home, or might not have the digital tools to work or study remotely. If they’re going out of state, they might need a device that can help them keep in touch with their family and friends since travel will be limited. There may be some expensive software that their school isn’t providing which could help them in their studies.
“They will not have photos of prom or graduation, but all those Zoom screenshots need to go somewhere, so consider getting prints and frames for grads. And portable Bluetooth speakers bring the beat to even socially distant events and will be useful whenever dorms reopen.” Perhaps include some photos of your own that they can look at when they’re feeling homesick?
All great gifts!
Give money while supporting local business
Money is still a useful gift, and you can take it to a new level. Many small businesses are struggling and are so important to the culture of a town or city. If your grad is going away — or staying in town — they would likely love a gift certificate to their favorite coffee shop (maybe curbside delivery now…), a local grocery or bookstore, restaurant or other local stores that they love. I’m sure they’ll also appreciate that you are supporting them by “paying it forward” to businesses they would also like to support.
Your greatest gift to your graduating teen: YOU
Let’s let the reality of your teen’s life sink in for a moment. This pandemic simply stopped your teen’s world as they knew it …no warning, and with much uncertainty that will undoubtedly continue in the months ahead. No Prom, No Graduation (in person), No Summer filled with fun and friends.
It’s more important than ever for them to learn how to be UNSTOPPABLE (a big part of what I call being unstoppable is to be resilient, to face whatever may come with confidence and strength). Transition, change, and the loss of all these special occasions will most likely affect your teen in emotional ways that may be new, and very difficult, for them.
Be patient with them. Give them some one-to-one attention and space where they can continue to talk with you about their feelings, even grieving. Acknowledge them and allow it to be okay NOT to feel okay about the present circumstances and uncertainty with their future.
It’s tough for all of us. The difference is that as adults, we have experience coping with different transitions and loss. With teens, that’s not necessarily the case. They need extra support right now because they aren’t only grieving the loss of friends and stability as they knew it, they’re also grieving the loss of celebrating special occasions as they expected to be celebrated pre-COVID.
Listening is so simple and yet highly effective. It shows them that they matter, that you care, and it gives them a sense of hope because you’ve got their back. Encourage them to ask questions in their journal, and to jot down their thoughts and feelings. Journaling is therapeutic and, studies show, good for one’s health because it is a method to release stress so cortisol levels don’t shoot through the roof.
Redirect their attention to something positive, after they feel they’ve been heard. Make a vision board together of their dreams and vision, their college, friendships they’ll make even in online courses. This will help them stay motivated and focused on their BIG goals and purpose; and to show them some great reasons to continue even in the face of “New Normal Learning.”