Mighty Blog

How to talk to kids about reimagined milestones during COVID-19

Minnesota’s stay-at-home order has been extended, and classes for Minnesota students will be virtual for the rest of the year. But what does this mean for milestone events like high school graduation ceremonies and prom?

Dr. Gigi Chawla, chief of general pediatrics at Children’s Minnesota, shares more about the emotional impact of the continuation of COVID-19 and how you can help your child cope.

What is the emotional impact of cancelled events?

Cancelling events can be hard for teens. Celebrations like prom or graduation are events many teens look forward to for years. These are typically a big part of a high school experience so missing out on them can be hard. When big events have to be reimagined, it can take a toll on kids and teens.

“I think it really leaves kids in this limbo, where they don’t know how to process what they’ve accomplished, and they don’t have a sense to be able to move on,” said Dr. Chawla.

How can parents help?

Listen to your teen

“The most important thing to really remember is to listen and make sure that you hear their pain, their anger as they’re talking through it,” said Dr. Chawla.

Although it can be hard, try to understand that teens are processing a loss, so don’t try to explain it away. Acknowledge that their feelings are valid and understandable due to the circumstances.

Encourage resilience

Remind teens about the things that they have accomplished to get to these points. Ensure they are connected to their friends and that they can all get through this together, with a different memory than expected. No one should feel alone in navigating these challenges.

Find opportunities to celebrate

Help your teen decide how to participate in some of these events. For their prom, you can dress up, take pictures or have a virtual prom dance party.

Some high schools have reimagined how to celebrate graduation. Some have moved the ceremony to a virtual one or have switched to a drive-up-style ceremony. Other schools may have re-scheduled graduation ceremonies for the summer. No matter how you decide to celebrate, make sure to celebrate your teen’s accomplishment—it’s an exciting and big deal!

Participate in these milestones yourself

Prom and graduation are milestones for parents too. Parents and grandparents have spent years raising, supporting and teaching teens, so high school graduation is an accomplishment for the whole family. Be sure to celebrate with your kids even if it looks differently than anticipated. We will all have a story to tell one day of how the pandemic changed our lives and forced us to create new memories.

Remember, these milestones aren’t trivial. They can help teens find closure after high school so they can move on to the next chapter of their lives with confidence.

Kaitlyn Kamleiter