To The Parents of the Class of 2020

Guest Blogger: Jill Huynh, VP, New Business Development and Parent Connext™ Beech Acres Parenting Center

The final months of a high school senior year are supposed to be filled with spring sports, college acceptance celebrations, prom, graduation, party planning, making memories with friends, the final day of classes, and saying tearful farewells to favorite teachers. Over the past few months, almost all of these “supposed to be” items have been exchanged for virtual schooling, staying home with family, social distancing, and concern about the health of friends and loved ones. Instead of pomp and circumstance, the class of 2020 is getting stress and anxiety. This is as disappointing for parents as much as it is for their children.

Many of us remember our senior year even though the details fade away as the years go by. High school was not a wonderful experience for some, but that time in our lives is almost always memorable. We want the final months of high school leading up to the achievement of graduation to be exhilarating, exciting and fun. Instead, students are focused on finishing up their senior year worrying about the global  COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve been forced to trade in their caps and gowns for face masks and hand sanitizer.

What would it be like if we, as parents, adjusted our own expectations about how the Class of 2020 should feel about today’s world and the cancellation of many anticipated events? Most teens live in the present moment and may move on from disappointments faster than we do. They may not feel the loss and sadness during this time as you do. They don’t have the context of experiencing these “rites of passage” events like you do.  Instead, they are taking things day by day and working through them as they come. How moms, dads, and caregivers handle this time in their high school senior’s life matters in that stress and sadness are easily transmitted to kids, just like any other virus. The results of this transmission from parent/caregiver to their child can lead to them feeling what you feel or reacting as you react, rather than persevering and moving forward as they are equipped to do.

As I searched for the one positive view of our current situation, I continued to land on resilience.  Resilience has become a sort of a buzz word in society today which tends to take away from its power.  When I think of resilience, it is a process of bouncing back and bouncing forward to rise above adversity.  Research shows that lessons forcing individuals to build resilience enable them to better handle the next “bump in the road”.  In the spirit of resilience, I turned to Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, a pediatrician who specializes in building resilience in youth.  I have included Dr. Ginsburg’s 7 C’s of resilience below along with tips for you as you parent the Class of 2020 now and in the future.

Confidence – Kids have a solid belief in their own abilities
• Parent Tip – Instead of asking “what do you want to do with your life?”, ask them “who do you want to be?”

Competence – Developed when kids are allowed opportunities to use their own judgment to make responsible choices.
• Parent Tip – Avoid protecting kids from making mistakes. When they make them, help them figure out how to recover.

Connection – Kids feel known, understood, adored and loved.
• Parent Tip – Show kids that relationships matter. Show them love through affection, spending time together, and telling them you love them.

Character – Comfort with sticking to values and demonstrating a caring attitude toward others.
• Parent Tip – Help your kids clarify and express their own values. Start with family values they are familiar with and build from there.

Contribution – Let your kid know that the world is a better place because they are in it.
• Parent Tip – Model and teach generosity with your time, energy and resources.

Coping – Help kids learn to cope with stress because life is full of it.
• Parent Tip – Assist with understanding of a real crisis (like COVID19) vs. something that just feels this way in the moment       (like an argument with a boyfriend/girlfriend).

Control – Kids learn their decisions affect their lives and do what it takes to bounce back after challenges
• Parent Tip – Recognize your kid’s small successes so they know they can succeed.

In a time that should be a major celebration, we are all adjusting to a COVID19 world. Yes, this isn’t the Class of 2020 celebration you imagined in your wildest dreams, but it is an opportunity for you to step back, look at that wonderful young person in front of you who has accomplished all that you ever dreamed of, and celebrate that. As a parent, our job is to help our kids grow, develop, learn and succeed. The groundwork for the future is right now and this year’s celebrations can be centered on the Class of 2020’s RESILIENCE. Congratulations to the parents of the Class of 2020 – mission accomplished.