I remember going shopping with my girlfriends for a prom dress. It was early March and we skipped school (with our parents permission) and hit McDonald’s on the way home. We met cute boys in the parking lot and questioned our decisions about who we were going to the dance with.
I remember shopping for my own prom
I remember finding the perfect shoes and getting my hair done. I remember where I ate and the all-night party at a friends house I was allowed to attend. I remember lying on the beach the next day with all my best friends having a mixed bag of emotions: happy to be done with high school, excited to go to college, but sad that this chapter in my life was over.
I knew it was coming though and I had years to prepare for this time. What I thought was going to happen did: I went to my dream school in the fall with zero interruptions and started a new life I loved even more than my high school years.
I bet you remember that time in your life too–the end of senior year when everything was centered around you and your graduation because you’d worked hard to get to that point.
There were parties to go to, project graduation and senior skip day. You got to do your makeup with your girlfriends before prom and were thrilled to meet up the next day and talk all about the previous night.
We have no idea what it feels like for seniors
We enjoyed simple freedoms and we had no idea how it would feel if they got taken away from us because things went according to plan for most of us. We still don’t know how it feels, which is why we absolutely shouldn’t be telling the Class of 2020 to stop feeling sorry for themselves or to just be thankful they have their health.
Of course they are thankful for their health. But right now, huge milestones and memory-makers have been taken from them. They’d planned on marching together during graduation, they’d planned on playing their last year of softball, they’d planned on going through the end of the years with their peers.
And they planned on doing it in person; side by side. They’d planned on hearing each other’s voices and sitting next to each other in class for the last time. They’d planned on staying up all night and spending one last summer together. They’d planned on all the things we got to do long ago.
How lucky we were to get all those experiences
How lucky were we that nothing was taken from us? How lucky were we to be sitting next to each other eating frozen yogurt recapping that last game or that last dance?
Think of your eighteen-year-old self for a moment: Imagine your senior year was stopped short and you were cut off from your friends, social life, and many major events in your life were cancelled. Events you’d planned on and talked about since you entered high school.
Now, imagine adults telling you to just be thankful for your health and to stop feeling sorry for yourself. Would that have made you feel any better? Speaking for myself, I can tell you I wouldn’t have been able to absorb that information as a teenager.
Listen, hard is hard. Maybe our kids’ situations don’t seem that hard to us when we look around the world and compare their story to other stories. If someone else has it worse, it doesn’t make your situation feel any better to you.
Mourning the prom, graduation, summer camp, a summer job, or being able to squeeze as much time in with friends, does not make our teenagers entitled brats. It makes them human. Their situation is their situation and it is incredibly hard for them. Their life has been stopped short and they will never get a senior year do-over.
And now, they wonder if their young adult life will be put on hold as well. Will colleges open in the fall? Will they be able to play soccer? Will they get to use that scholarship they worked so hard to get?
We may be thinking of all these things just don’t matter because our concerns are so much bigger-Will we be able to pay the mortgage, keep our family safe, and maintain our physical and mental health?
But, please remember this affects our seniors deeply.
Please validate their feelings
Don’t belittle their feelings. Don’t kick them while they’re down. The least you can do is lend an ear, lots of hugs, and remind them that no matter how their losses rank with others, their feelings are valid.
Right now, all we have is each other and our ability to communicate and try to find light in all of this.
We can’t afford to make them feel those things have been taken away too.
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