Helping Young People Cope With Missed Milestones

With schools canceled across the country, students of all ages are missing out on major events that typically take place in May. End-of-year trips, parties and award ceremonies are momentous occasions that students look forward to throughout the school year. Prom and graduation are important rites of passage. Missing these exciting moments and the public recognition that come with them can be devastating for many young people, especially high school and college seniors.

Althoughforegoing these experiences may not seem like such a big deal to adults, thereis more to consider, says Graciela Jimenez, a psychotherapist with BaptistHealth South Florida. These events are developmental milestones that typically provideyoung people with important opportunities to connect with their peers atcritical transitions into adulthood. Parents should take these missedopportunities seriously and try to help their children process their grief duringthis time of uncertainty, Ms. Jimenez advises.  

AcknowledgeFeelings of Sadness

Thefirst step, she says, is to acknowledge your children’s feelings and reassure themthat it is normal to feel sad about this situation. Young people want to beheard, so listening to them and validating their frustration and disappointmentcan help. 

Focuson the Positive

Ms.Jimenez also recommends talking to your children about the things they cancontrol. Since many schools are holding virtual graduations, making plans tomaximize this experience is a positive step. Superintendent of Miami-DadeCounty Public Schools Albert Carvalho announced that virtual graduationceremonies will be broadcast online and through local media partners. Duringeach ceremony, a photo of each graduating senior will be displayed while thestudent’s name is announced. Parents and guests will also have the opportunityto remotely attend virtual graduation ceremonies.

“Parentsshould partner with their graduate and family members to make the most of thisvirtual occasion,” said Ms. Jimenez. “They can get dressed up, decorate theirhome and prepare a favorite meal. Extended family, friends and neighbors canalso honor the graduate’s accomplishment by doing a drive-by celebration.”  

EncourageSocial Connections

Duringthis time of social distancing, social connectedness can reduce children’s feelingsof isolation and stress. “Encourage your teens to stay connected with friends throughgroup chats, phone calls, FaceTime, Zoom, social media and shared onlineactivities such as watching a series or movie together,” Ms. Jimenez advised.      

OfferPraise for Doing the Right Thing  

Praiseyour children for staying home and practicing social distancing. Point out thatthe sacrifices they are making will reduce the spread of the virus, protect thehealth of the overall community and bring this pandemic to an end sooner. “Youngpeople are quite resilient, and this situation can further build their flexibilityand ability to cope with future challenges,” Ms. Jimenez said.   

Lookto the Future

Remindingyoung people that things will get better gives them hope. To give graduatessomething to look forward to, encourage them to start planning post-pandemicactivities, such as a much-deserved graduation party or outing with friends,suggests Ms. Jimenez. “They will get through this, and it will make them – andall of us – stronger,” she added.  

ConsiderSeeing a Mental Health Expert

If your child is really struggling during this time, consider contacting a healthcare professional. Talking to a mental health expert may help young people find healthy ways to cope with their distress. To schedule a private visit with a licensed mental health specialist, download the free Baptist Health Care On Demand app or visit Use code WELLBEING to get $10 off your consultation, valid through December 31, 2020.

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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