Like many of you, we’ve been walking with this year’s senior class through the heartbreaking loss of their final high school semester.
The conversations are raw, varied, and emotional. These teenagers are grieving, and their struggle is similar to those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. The things we say—even with good intentions—can be hurtful. So we asked our seniors what they need from us. Their insights were honest and touching…
“We need grace and understanding.” Seniors are stepping out of the ego-centrism of adolescence and into the realities of young adulthood. They know they’re struggling, they’re trying to be mature, but they’re human. And we need to cut them some slack.
“We need validation.” This season is unique in the true sense of the word. They need adults in their lives to acknowledge that this season is unprecedented. Here are a few specific phrases they mentioned would be meaningful to hear:
- This is hard.
- You’re doing great.
- We’re proud of you.
Bonus Idea: Encourage parents of graduates to write letters to their kids expressing all the things they want to say. Encourage them to set aside time to sit together and read the letter out loud. This time will be meaningful (and probably emotional).
“We need motivation.” Unlike others, some students have classes that ended without a requirement to complete assignments. Unlike adults, most don’t have full-time jobs with meetings and responsibilities. They need motivation to eat right, exercise, stay connected with friends, avoid the over-consumption of media, and to lean into Jesus.
“We need something to look forward to.” Seniors know they’ve lost a lot, and eventually they’ll need a vision for what’s still to come. Some are already there, and they need adults to speak words of hope and promise. We need to remind them that there are great things ahead, even while acknowledging that they’ve lost a great deal.
“We need prayer.” If adults need encouragement in their faith in this season, how much more do we need to encourage teenagers! Spend focused time praying for students and their families.
In addition to walking alongside seniors during this season, we wanted to do some fun things for them as well. Our church community is placing yard signs at the home of every senior connected with our church, congratulating them on their accomplishments. We’re also making small gift bags—“quarantine graduation survival kits”—with standard stuff like Ramen noodles, gum, a GrubHub gift card, and so on. Every senor will also receive in the mail a copy of a promise book we created titled “God’s Word to the Class of 2020”—it has personal notes written by adults and other students who’ve been impacted by these kids. Here’s a pdf of the promise book—God’s Word to the Class of 2020
Frankly, there’s nothing we can say or do to fix things for the Class of 2020; what they’ve lost is irreplaceable. What we can do is honor them through caring conversations, fun surprises, and a little TLC.