Milestones Missed: High School, College Students Coping as the Class of COVID-19

Class of COVID-19
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Spring break, at home with your parents, might not have been plan A for the average college senior – and the timing of the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t leave many other options for a Plan B.

“This isn’t exactly how I imagined senior year would pan out,” said Will, above left, a senior at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury. “I can make up for spring break later. What I won’t get back is this last semester with my roommates, presenting my senior thesis as planned or the class of 2020 graduation cap toss.”

Instead, like many other seniors, Will’s last look at the campus and that coveted senior housing was a socially distant designated move out time, alone, without the standard sendoff or celebration. Per the current campus COVID-19 protocol, he will complete the remainder of his classes online. Summer jobs and post-graduate careers are on hold in many cases, another important milestone towards independence disrupted.

High schoolers are facing similar milestone losses. Proms and graduations hang in the balance, while sports seasons have come to an abrupt halt. How best can the Class of COVID-19 cope? We turned to Dr. Andre Newfield, chair of psychiatry for Hartford HealthCare St. Vincent’s Behavioral Health Services for some guidance.

From Dr. Newfield:

In terms of coping skills, find what works for you. This period of social distancing may be a good time to explore options that an individual has not had time or courage to previously.

Many are turning to walking, hiking, biking and other physical distractions. Finding good recipes online and cooking videos can be a fun and rewarding outlet. Picking up an instrument with online lessons could be therapeutic, as well as arts such as drawing, painting, sculpting and other crafts. Journaling thoughts and feelings has always been a therapeutic recommendation for coping.

For parents, try to be there empathetically for your adolescents. Acknowledge that their experience of activities like proms, parties and class trips are going to be, in some ways, very different or unique. Elicit feelings about the losses and join in the mourning. Try not to compare it to the experiences you are also losing as a parent, as difficult as that may be.

Consistency is one of the cornerstones for raising healthy children, and for maintaining a healthy adult lifestyle. The relative upheaval of individuals’ lives during this challenging period is disruptive to us all, especially adolescents. The key to maintaining emotional health is adapting to a new normal, especially if this continues on for a number of months.

The good news is that adolescents and young adults are, in some ways, more adept at handling physical distancing. The younger generation is generally more technologically savvy as we come to appreciate how technology has been able to bring us together in certain ways.

It’s important to note that mental illness and substance abuse can thrive on social isolation. If you have an adolescent or young adult who has previously suffered with emotional problems, substance abuse or mental illness, now is a time to be especially vigilant. Watch for signs of symptom exacerbation.

Check-in more regularly. Work with your healthcare provider to find alternatives to in-person ongoing treatments, such as virtual evaluations. Maintain strict recommendations on medications adherence. Consider not leaving large amounts of medications, even if they are the ones your adolescent is prescribed, readily available. And, respond to medical and psychiatric emergencies by calling 911 or going to your nearest emergency department.

For more information on the Hartford HealthCare St. Vincent’s Behavioral Health Services, click here.

Not feeling well? Call your healthcare provider for guidance and try to avoid going directly to an emergency department or urgent care center, as this could increase the chances of the disease spreading.

Click here to schedule a virtual visit with a Hartford HealthCare-GoHealth Urgent care doctor.

Stay with Hartford HealthCare for everything you need to know about the coronavirus threat. Click here for information updated daily.

Questions? Call our 24-hour hotline (860.972.8100 or, toll-free, 833.621.0600). 

Get text alerts by texting 31996 with COVID19 in the message field.


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