Coronavirus Causes 'Boatloads Of Anxiety' For High School Seniors
Coronavirus is making the already difficult process of saying goodbye to high school and finalizing a college choice overwhelming.
BOSTON — Few people are more in tune with the stress facing high school seniors than Rachel Smook.
2020欧洲杯赛事At work, the Northborough psychologist specializes in treating teenagers. At home, she is the mother of a high school senior trying to finalize which of eight colleges that accepted her she will attend in the fall.
2020欧洲杯赛事That is, of course, if colleges even open this fall.
"In my practice, the high school seniors I see are really grieving all the things that have vanished," Smook said. "Culturally, we're not talking about it like it's grief, but that's what it is...It's not just about being stuck in the house, and the kids themselves may not even recognize that they're grieving."
Tough Choices Get Tougher
On top of the canceled proms and commencement ceremonies, seniors are also trying to get ready to leave home and, for most, finalize a college decision. Like a lot of high school seniors, Abby Smook had no clear-cut, top choice college when she started applying to schools. She knew she wanted a smaller, liberal arts college with a strong arts program. She got accepted to eight schools that fit her criteria but now, her mother says, she has to make that final decision without another campus visit.
"As a parent, I'm fairly freaked our that we weren't able to go through another round of college visits. For her, the tours we did when she was deciding where to apply all sort of run together - they're not delineated in her memory," Smook said. "We were all counting on her to be able to step foot on campus again, and now she can't do that."
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Michelle Patalano of Norton is watching two children struggle with school closures. Her daughter Hannah is finishing her senior year of college by taking classes that were abruptly moved online. She is missing out on the on-campus experience as everything from job fairs for graduating seniors to commencement ceremonies get canceled. Her son Jack is a senior at Norton High School whose season as captain of the baseball team was canceled. He will no longer be able to attend college acceptance programs to narrow the five schools where he was accepted down to one.
2020欧洲杯赛事"He will never get this chance again and now he is forced make a choice that could affect his next four years of happiness," Patalano said. "This is a devastating virus and socially distancing is absolutely needed but it is still sad for college and high school seniors."
2020欧洲杯赛事Colleges have adapted by organizing virtual campus visits. This week, Abby Smook met on the Zoom video conference platform with 150 prospective students, as well as current students and faculty, at Drew University in Madison, NJ.
"That brought my anxiety down. I had kind of forgotten that kids are used to doing these things online," Rachel Smook said. "The faculty may have been bumbling a bit, but the kids were fine."
Parents Also Struggle
Smook said by the end of the video conference, some prospective students were breaking into smaller groups and discussing potential roommate pairings. But she worried that the excitement of choosing a college might be snuffed out if the coronavirus shutdown of college campuses extends into the fall.
"Now it's the uncertainty of whether this is even going to happen," Rachel Smook said.
Smook said high school seniors and their parents are both going through an "emotional whiplash." Since September, they have been going through the complex but normal process of saying goodbye and moving into the next phase of life. Then, six months into that process, everything changed.
2020欧洲杯赛事"I had thought that next year, when she wasn't here, was going to be tough. But it started this year — this year has been tough as well," Smook said. "It's emotional whiplash, going through the process of separating and then finding out it might not happen as planned.
Like most parents, Smook sees the value of going to college extending far beyond the classroom.
"Online classes are a good stopgap but not how I want my kid to have to go to college," she said. "I don't know what I will advise her to do if this extends into the fall — whether I'll tell her to consider a gap year."
How To Cope
Smook said the techniques that help people deal with grief and anxiety will also help parents and students.
"It's very important for parents to make space for kids' grief," she said. "They're likely to go through all the stages of grief. One day they may be okay and the next day they may be really sad. Kids need to know that what they're feeling is real and important."
2020欧洲杯赛事Uncertainty is a key factor in creating anxiety, and now we have a "boatload of anxiety in every corner of our lives" Smook said. And dwelling on the uncertainty leads to more uncertainty.
She's advising her clients, their parents and anyone else feeling pressure to focus on basic mindfulness techniques. Deep breathing exercises, yoga, slow exercise, reading and "any kind of academic exercise" can help reduce anxiety," she said.
"Along with that, just acknowledge the difficulty of not knowing," Smook said. "I'm just reassuring my daughter that even though we don't know what is going to happen, we're going to navigate through it together."
Dave Copeland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 617-433-7851. Follow him on Twitter () and Facebook ().
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