Many adults have been adjusting to their disrupted life for the past two months, but the emotional impacts on high school seniors may be delayed – and that is concerning mental health providers at Centura Health. Consider the class of 2020 did not have prom, their final semester of sports, theater or performances and missed many other time-honored ceremonies and rituals that every other modern generation experienced. Yet, given the pressure to complete their requisite courses online and plan for the biggest transition of their lives amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many young adults may be delaying when they process the stress of missed memories and events.
“Honestly, I am just trying to get through this year,” said Makayla Salter, a senior at Holy Family High School in Broomfield, Colo. “None of my friends are talking about it and it really hasn’t hit me yet that I didn’t go to senior prom, have that last meal with my friends or hear the last bell of school. I was really looking forward to playing lacrosse for the first time, but I don’t have time to worry about all of that right now.”
Dr. George Brandt, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Centura Health – Porter Adventist Hospital, said this type of coping mechanism is both common and concerning.
“Most young adults don’t have the coping skills yet to process this highly unprecedented school year and may resort to suppressing their grief and anxiety,” said Brandt. “My concern is that once the school year has officially ended, these feelings may surface in graduates and negatively impact their transition into the next chapter of their life.
“Even though many of the scheduled senior events have passed, parents should look for concerning behavior and expect that anxiety and grief may become more apparent in the coming weeks. I encourage any parent that is concerned about their child’s behavior to reach out to their primary care physician or contact our mental health providers at Centura Health for healthy ways to help their kids cope.”
In addition to delayed anxiety, Dr. Brandt advised against assuming students can use social media to replace traditional interactions.
“For young adults, social media is a convenient way to communicate but it is not a substitute for personal connection. This generation has a greater reliance on technology, and I encourage parents to be mindful of their kids’ time on social media especially with the social distancing precautions and continued impacts of COVID-19.”
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