Ask Aimee Zak


May 31, 2020 Aimee
Ask Aimee Zak
Show Notes Transcript

Todays question is the first of the COVID QUESTIONS SERIES. There's no doubt that people as a whole have been affected by this pandemic - mentally, emotionally, financially, physically, and big ways and little ways. Today we focus on our high school grads and how we can support them.

Dear Aimee Zak,
Do you have any advice for high school seniors to have the most fulfilling graduation experience since no option is really exciting?!
~ A loving parent

I know this might sound weird. But the first step looks nothing like a celebration..." 

Today is the first of the COVID QUESTION SERIES. I’ve gotten quite a bit of questions related to all things pandemic, so I will try to answer those in a relevant and timely manner. Which brings me to the first question…also, this is my first question ever, so let me take a moment to celebrate with a happy dance! All right! Let’s do this. 

Today’s question is: Dear Aimee Zak, 

Do you have any advice for high school seniors to have the most fulfilling "graduation" experience since no option is really that exciting?! 

Aw man. I feel so much compassion and grief for the graduating seniors. Final semester of my Senior year of high school was one of the best times of my life. Am I right Center Moriches High School? Class of ’91? Our motto was “Class of ’91 knows how to have fun!”. And the underground class song was “The Joker.” Shhh, our teachers still think it was Unchained Melody. We were the kings and queens of the halls. Teachers were pretty easy on us. Most of us already knew were where we were headed in the Fall, so we were easy on ourselves. I was a rule follower, but I kind of rebelled senior year, and they let me. They let us. Senior ditch day. Senior prank day. Extra free periods. Prom. Graduation. I’ll never forget graduation…I won some big awards…and then my best friend and her dad had the best exchange when she got her diploma. She yelled, “WE DID IT DAD!!!  AND HE YELLED back,  LET ME SEE IT KID!!  AND she WAVED THE DIPLOMA EXCITEDLY AS she CROSSED THE STAGE!  THE CROWD WENT WILD!  Such a great and classic memory!   

Rest in peace, Mr. Pelosi. 

The end of high school was an amazing time. We felt on top of the world. It still stands as some of the best memories of my life. 

Which is why it absolutely breaks my heart that these young graduates won’t get to experience it. They won’t get to make these classic memories. They need something BIG to honor this rite of passage into adulthood. Let’s talk about what this honoring could like…

I know this might sound weird. But the first step looks nothing like a celebration. First   and foremost in order for these graduating seniors to have a fulfilling experience outside, they have to give themselves permission to grieve inside. They need to feel the reality of the situation, and that reality involves being really upset. I mean, watch their movie for a second. They are social distancing and having minimal interactions, not even able to get their yearbooks signed, or try on their cap and gown. It really stinks, so, they need to know it’s okay to feel the grief and loss of it all. Parents, friends, and family also need to help them with that. To really honor their feelings: the anger, sadness, and disappointment that they did not get the senior year that they have waited so long for – that they deserve. 

So, what exactly does helping them with grief look like? 

Well, as a parent, it looks like you holding space for their grief. It looks like you inviting and allowing them to be upset, vent, scream, cry, curse a little, maybe. It looks like you not taking it so personally when they are a little grumpy and projecting it outward. Basically, it looks like compassion and understanding and giving them a big fat break. As much as they are so close to being adults – some already technically in adult status – when a person is in grief, they shrink to the emotional age of a child and they may just need what a 5-6 year old needs when they get a boo boo: for you to give them a mini pity party, a hug, a kiss, and lots and lots of comfort. Sit down and just talk about it; open up a dialogue. Give them your undivided attention. Make genuine, solid eye contact. Maybe even over some comforting ice cream. 

And, for the seniors, honoring their grief looks like them having conversations about it. Processing about it. With their friends, their peers, family, maybe their therapist. It looks like them listening to a podcast like this to help them to feel normal when those big waves of grief come up. Tell them to give themselves permission to ride those waves and get thrashed around a little bit. Let some of those emotions come out. If they don’t feel comfortable doing it in front of others, do it on their own: journal, cry, scream into a pillow. Literally hug it out with themselves - because that is what’s needed. Tell them to do anything but stuff it inside. 

So, that’s the emotional ways that you can support your graduating senior. Now, let’s talk about the logistical ways you can do that. 

The most important thing is that your senior has two experiences: a) that they are being celebrated and b) in a memorable way. That “memorable way” can be different for each person, based on who they are. I’m going to throw out eight ideas, and you can pick one or four that you feel could accomplish those two things for your specific senior: 

1.     Get their opinion. Sit down and ask your senior what they would like to do. Like I mentioned – they are now young women and men, not children. And you can reframe the heck out of this moment by saying just that. They are old enough and mature enough to practice owning what they want. That includes how they want to be celebrated. 

2.     Create something…like a poem or short story about their life up until the quarantine. Perhaps a rap song. Take a current song and change the lyrics, like, “Here’s a little story I’d like to tell, about a senior named Maddie, you know so well…” or “This one goes to the graduate…” you know if Alicia Keys is more your style. 

3.     Maybe even do a video and/or photo compilation of their closest friends, family, teachers sharing how proud they are, their favorite memory, or perhaps singing part of the rap song…

4.     Get them a heartfelt gift – potentially some memorabilia…you know, a special gift that they can always remember this unique time…perhaps an engraved leatherman, necklace, or bracelet that says “#covidgrad2020” or something that the kids would say these days…

5.     How about a flash mob? That would be right up my ally. You could create the dance, or pay someone to create it - send it to friends and family, have them do it, and put together the video. There’s imovie on your iphone! Boom. 

6.     Maybe a social distancing karaoke party. BYOM. Bring your own mic. 

7.     If you want to keep it simple: lawn sign, balloons, zoom party, or – here’s a new one – JUST MADE THIS UP – have a car parade with the people who would have been at the graduation. 

8.     And let’s not forget good old fashioned money. Humans love money. Especially young humans about to launch into adulthood. When their feeling down, you can quote Ron Burgundy from Anchorman and say, “Hey, Lucas, if I were to give you some money out of my wallet, would that make your graduation feel more special…?”

Seriously though, kids love money. They really do. Okay…bottom line - if you show up for your senior with some emotional support and create some memories that they will never forget, they will ride this wave of grief faster and land themselves into a place of acceptance, resilience, and growth. I really look forward to hearing some of their stories of what they learned when they look back on this time. I think we’re going to have some good stories of perseverance. 

That’s all for today. Thanks for listening to Ask Aimee Zak. Until next time – stay productive and go forth with authenticity, purpose, logic, and compassion.