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With Senior Year In Disarray, Teens And Young Adults Feel Lost. Here’s How To Help

For many young people sheltering at home means missing milestones and public recognition of their achievements. This is especially true for seniors graduating from high school and college.

Teens are suffering from missing out on these experiences and the opportunity for connecting with their peers at critical transitions into adulthood, says Dr. Ludmila De faria, a psychiatrist with Florida State University.

She says they’re “mourning the loss of important developmental milestones they were supposed to be doing at this time in their lives.”

And experts advise parents to take these issues seriously and try to help kids process them.

De faria, who works with student mental health, says when young people miss kinds of momentous events, “it’s almost like they are forced to regress a little bit or at least not progress as expected on their developmental milestone.”

And she says, college students in particular are losing their support group during an important developmental phase. They had moved away from their families of origin, which is part of a process called individuating.

This can be traumatic for a generation that “already suffers high levels of anxiety,” she says. It puts them at greater risk of developing clinical anxiety and depression. Students like this may require some sort of therapeutic help from home, she says.

Many parents may be at a loss for how to reassure their children during a time of such great uncertainty, which could make things even harder on teens and young adults.

How Parents Can Help

But there are ways to help them cope. Here are a few things parents can try.

Acknowledge their feelings

Bufka says an important way for parents to help high school and college students by simply acknowledging their feelings — the sadness and disappointment they feel about the loss of prom, celebrations and graduation.

Parents should recognize that for many young people, “this is the biggest thing they’ve experienced in their lives,” she says. “They’re too young to remember 9-11. Collectively as a generation, this is a really big experience for them.”

Encourage them to stay connected

Bufka says staying socially connected, even virtually, can be helpful. In fact she prefers to describe distance precautions as “physical distancing,” not social distancing.

And, she encourages young people to take advantage of the many ways to socially connect, with all kinds of shared online activities, including group chats, dinners, TV and even movie watching.

Shift focus to what they can control

Bufka recommends talking to your teen or college-aged child about the things they do have some control over.

Graduation may be postponed or cancelled but young people can plan special events for after the pandemic has ended. Focus on the positive events that can occur at the end of this crisis. Envision how you can celebrate and maybe even start making plans now.

Emphasize the greater good

It can help to point out to young people that they are making sacrifices right now not just for their own health and safety, but for the greater good.  People are able to cope better, she says, when they “think about the altruistic reason they’re doing this.”

In the end, Bufka says once young people get through this crisis, they will realize they can handle tough situations and get to the other side.

Excerpted from “With Senior Year In Disarray, Teens And Young Adults Feel Lost. Here’s How To Help” in KQED’s MindShift. Read the full article online.

Source: MindShift | With Senior Year In Disarray, Teens And Young Adults Feel Lost. Here’s How To Help, https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/55748/with-senior-year-in-disarray-teens-and-young-adults-feel-lost-heres-how-to-help | Copyright 2020 NPR

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