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Class of 2021 - What’s it like to graduate during COVID-19?

by: Michelle Guelfand
How can you emotionally support your graduating child through The L-E-A-R-N Model?
Everybody’s lives have been impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic in one way or another. For some of our children and teens this may have been the first time where they needed to deal with a change of plans.
In many States, most of the 2020-2021 school year has been taught in a distance learning model. Some States returned to a hybrid or full in-person learning as late as May 2021. This year was definitely challenging for children, teens and parents alike.
Aside from the physiological threat of keeping healthy during the pandemic where some families needed to be even more cautious than others, it required us all to deal with various mental, emotional, social and technological challenges. To some degree or another, many of us were dealing with various emotions like frustration, sadness, anger, stress, and even grief over the loss of a loved one. We were all required to develop and enhance life skills like time-management, self-discipline, flexibility, creativity, resilience in times of uncertainty, and more. And while technology allowed schools to teach online, one of the major challenges remained the lack of in-person interactions which is key to children and teens’ social-psychological development. The sense of connectedness and belonging with peers was greatly impacted.
This week marks graduation week for the class of 2021!
Some of our children will graduate from elementary school, middle school, high-school or college/university. Many children, teens and parents are looking forward to this milestone, especially after this challenging year.
As parents, a graduation ceremony marks yet another step of our children’s progress and a moment of pride, where we can shed tears of joy as we watch them walk the stage with their cap and gown, and receive their diploma.
For our children and teens, aside from being a reward and acknowledgment of their years of effort, a graduation ceremony is also a time to connect with their friends and peers and have that sense of belonging.
While many States have reopened schools for in-peron studies, and many will also conduct in-person graduation ceremonies, they are still under COVID-19 guidelines, which means adhering to social distancing guidelines, reduced number of guests, smaller events overall and some will remain virtual or allow for a hybrid model.
Yes, this is yet another year that requires flexibility as plans change in times of uncertainty.
While the frustration may be real, we can either focus on what we miss, or use it as an opportunity to focus on what we’ve gained.
Whether graduation ceremonies will be conducted on a smaller scale, or virtual, there are additional things that we as parents can help our children and teens learn from this unique experience.
In 2020, I developed The L-E-A-R-N model. Many of the points remain relevant
1. Learning Experience – Everything in life is a learning experience. The global COVID-19 pandemic has been a reminder that we don’t always get what we want, plan or expect. It is a good reminder to practice flexibility and creativity. The sooner we are to accept and come up with new ways to handle a situation, the faster we recover, and thrive.
2. Empower Character - As parents we can empower our children to rise stronger. By empowerment I mean to remind them of their effort, progress, learnings, capabilities, and achievements. Parents can prepare a letter reviewing and listing all the good qualities that their children have demonstrated throughout the year and highlighting their internal resources that are forever theirs to keep and use.
A sense of pride in both you and your child emerges as you review how much they have matured, overcame hardship, demonstrated flexibility, creativity and built resilience as they shape their character.
You can write a nice letter, add some photos from the past year, and print it on a nice card.
I have been practicing this twice a year with my children; on their birthdays, and at the end of each school year. This process is a good reminder for me that my children are growing and maturing, and I know my children cherish these personal messages for years to come.
3. Acknowledge Feelings.
Acknowledging feelings of frustration and disappointment is important. First, acknowledge your own feelings, then acknowledge your childrens’ feelings. Each of you has pictured the graduation ceremony in a certain way in your mind’s-eye, and the reality turned differently.
Meet your child where they are. Allow these feelings to be for a while. Don’t shove them under the rug, ignore or dismiss them. Welcome them. Guide your child to thank the feelings for showing up. Provide your children a safe space to experience and contemplate them.
4. Recall Moments. Be Grateful. Celebrate!
Once you allow that safe space for your child to share their feelings, you build up that trust, and you can now start leading them and think together of what you do have control of. You can call upon your creative minds and come up with new ideas.
* Recall pleasant memories. Ask your child to share a nice, fun memory, what they liked to do at school premises, or during the distance learning program, which teacher and friends were the most meaningful to them and why.
* Be Grateful. As your child changes their focus from having a sense of deprivation to experiencing an abundance of good memories, ask them to savor the moments, and be grateful for the experiences. Encourage them to treasure these memories, and the individuals in these memories in their hearts. According to quantum physics we are all energetically connected. Recalling moments of connection and feeling grateful rather than feeling sadness makes a big difference in how we experience ending.
* Celebrate – Now this is another time for that creativity of yours to kick in. Celebrate this moment so that you and your child have a good memory to recall in the future.
Aside from an actual graduation ceremony in school, you can:
- Decorate your house and front yard
- Prepare a nice meal or dine out in support of a local restaurant
- Bake/order a cake
- Give your child that empowerment letter
- Play fun, uplifting music
- Prepare a virtual Google photo album of past school years and jointly watch it on your TV
- Print an actual photo album
- Decorate your car and drive along with other friends
- Have a family and friends picnic in nature
- Go camping
- Go to an amusement park (which recently reopened)
- And more
5. New Beginning – Focus on the Future
Life has its cycles, and every ending brings in a new opportunity for something new. By now, your child has probably taken some steps to plan ahead for their next adventure. Remind them of all their internal resources that they have within them, all their capabilities, their strengths and resilience to deal with unexpected events. Remind them that all they need to do is trust themselves, and to just advance to the next step, one step at a time. And when it turns hard, to look back and acknowledge their progress, be proud, and keep on going
This is a good reminder to us all. As we encourage our children, we can use the exact same model, and encourage ourselves, too.
And last, but not least, encourage your teen to find ways to stay connected with school friends. As they will soon be dispersed across the nation in various colleges and universities, we should all be grateful for technology :-)
Way to go Class of 2021!
Congratulations! You’ve made it!
Be proud of yourselves!
I am proud of you!
With Love & Gratitude,
Michelle Guelfand
Michelle Guelfand is the founder and CEO of ‘My Desired Outcome Academy’. She helps individuals and groups reach their desired outcome through holistic, results-oriented coaching, workshops, and lectures. Michelle holds an MBA, a B.A in Linguistics, and is an expert in Neuro-Linguistic-Programming (NLP), Guided imagery and Positive Psychology. She is passionate about empowering and guiding her clients to achieve their desired outcome in any life area and become a better version of themselves. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and serves her global clients online. Michelle is a parent of three ages 22, 18, and 10.
Studying the mind-body-spirit field for over a decade, integrated with a results-oriented approach from her 14-years of work experience in the high-tech industry, Michelle brings a unique, rounded method that is proven with its results.
Coming from a lineage of teachers, and being an NLP Trainer, Michelle enjoys sharing her knowledge by providing educational and intriguing lectures and workshops relating to wholistic wellness, including the power of the mind in self-healing, emotions management, stress management, goal setting, the power of words on wellness, motivation and leadership, communication skills, and more. Michelle has been invited as a guest speaker in various podcasts and conferences including ‘The Leadership Conference’, and the ‘Discover Your Inner Healer’ Conference, where she shared the stage among inspiring, heart-centered leaders including Dr. Joe Vitale.
To schedule a free 20min discovery call, or book a lecture, contact Michelle Guelfand at