Well, for most students, schools are out until next year, which means all of the end of the year rituals, sports, and celebrations won’t happen. Graduations will be virtual or modified, and this senior class will have an experience like none other.
So, how to deal with it all? Is there still a way to celebrate and stay safe? Is there a way to make it special and exciting while still distancing? Here are some ideas from around country that might work, but first….
Remember that what is right for your student and your family will not be right for every student and every family. Just because your child isn’t sad, doesn’t mean others aren’t. Just because you need to make it super special, doesn’t mean other families have the same need. Just because someone is okay with it all doesn’t mean they are suppressing emotion or didn’t like high school. Just because someone is devastated doesn’t mean they won’t be able to deal with future reality.
Be grateful for those who are making an effort to make something good happen for the students who are missing out on something pretty special and support and enhance if you can and where you see a need. Or don’t, if it doesn’t matter to you or your student. Let’s give everyone room to breathe and to be and to feel without being attacked for what might be important to them or a necessary normal during a crazy time.
IDEAS FOR SCHOOLS
- Create a Senior Instagram page where seniors can post a photo or video with their favorite high school memory, what they will miss most, and their plans after graduation. (example HERE)
- Plan graduation or PROM or cotillion in the summer.
- See if colleges will do a PROM for all the Freshman during the fall semester
- Create yard signs for all the graduates (you could use the graduation budget for these instead).
- Offer caps and gowns for pick up so families can still hold graduations at home and get photos.
- Create a photo booth wall at the school where Seniors can come take pictures with fun sayings or props to commemorate the craziness of it all.
- Create a video of every senior sharing a memory and wishing their friends the best.
- Have sports teams and music departments highlight the seniors like they would on senior night…either create a video of it or do it through a ZOOM team meeting.
- Record graduation speeches and send them out. Make them shorter and give more people an opportunity…maybe one per club or team.
- Have the music department sing the songs that were planned for graduation in a video mash up (you can find these on the internet where people from all over comprise a choir online).
- Create a Facebook group for the Seniors so they can converse and say good-byes to the people they won’t keep in contact with after graduation.
- Create time slots over a few different days for students to come pick up their diploma, from an administrator on the football field (even wearing masks). Have balloons and music playing, some disposable props or fun signs for pictures. Let them take the opportunity for photos at their school. Give them a pen and let everyone write a message on a large banner or two to their classmates, then photograph it and send it to every senior.
- Every Thursday evening at 8:20 (20:20 military time) light the stadium for 20 minutes to celebrate the class of 2020.
- Line the HS fence with banners honoring the seniors.
- Still plan a grad night party for as soon as the ban is lifted.
- Have a graduation parade through the city. Close down a path, have the grads dressed in cap and gown and ride through town while citizen cheer and wave.
- Have a drive through graduation. Students get out and accept diplomas one by one.
- The kids are really missing saying good-bye to their teachers. Have each teacher record a short video message to the class of 2020 and share it with the students.
- Rent out a drive in, come in caps and gowns to watch a compilation video and speakers on the big screen outside from your cars.
IDEAS FOR NEIGHBORS & FRIENDS
- Plan a parade in your neighborhood where the seniors sit on their porches and neighbors drive by with honks and well wishes and maybe a card with cash or a treat too!
- Deliver candy or money leis to graduates on the day graduation was supposed to be held
- Tell the Seniors you know that you are sorry about the way things turned out. Let them know how awesome you think they are.
- A neighborhood lantern release on graduation day.
- Chalk the driveway of the grad with sidewalk chalk in school colors or with well wishes.
- Line the sidewalk or driveway of the grad with luminaries. Instructions HERE
- Adopt a senior community facebook page. The family posts a photo and some things the senior has accomplished and someone from the community recognizes them in some small way.
IDEAS FOR FAMILIES
- Make PROM happen at home with a fancy dinner or favorite take out, have the family all dress up, get flowers, take photos, do hair and make-up and have a dance party.
- Create a “this is your life” slideshow for the graduate.
- If the graduate is into music, hold the senior recital at home, on the front porch for neighbors or over ZOOM.
- Take senior or graduation photos (add in the PROM dress, the baseball uniform, the recital dress…anything that was missed that year so they remember)
- Gift a book full of pictures from life and all the things mom and dad hope they taught you (Shutterfly or Chatbooks…for an example see the Instagram @knowinglivingloving). To get your first Chatbook free, click HERE.
- Create a quilt with all their high school t-shirts and uniforms.
- During graduation week, decorate with balloons, banners, and signs in your yard.
- @Moremomma on Instagram is giving away her college cookbook to Seniors! Snag yours HERE.
- Create a Facebook group for parents of seniors and work together to come up with great ideas.
- Ask coaches, friends, neighbors, family, and special teachers to send an email about your Senior. Print them and put them in a book for them to read on graduation day.
- Swipe their phone or ask them to send you their favorite pictures from their phone, combine them with yours and put them all in a Chatbook with fun captions and memories from their high school years.
- Get some “Build-A-Head” cut outs to decorate your lawn (@buildahead on Instagram)
- Create a meaningful gifts like @alignedambition HERE
- Check out @emilysdoodles on Instagram. She makes darling and meaningful custom illustrations of grads. Would be a great gift!
- Take things a little less seriously with a funny graduation t-shirt like THIS or THIS or THIS
IDEAS FOR SENIORS
Sometimes focusing only on the bad during a hard time can make things worse. Here are some ideas for your Seniors who may need a way to look outside themselves or focus on the good times and still celebrate graduation.
- Make a Chatbook for each person in your friend group with all your favorite photos and memories. (to make your first one free, click HERE)
- Print and frame a favorite photo with each of your friends and deliver it with a letter about how much they mean to you.
- Write a letter to your favorite teacher and let them know how they have inspired you.
- Print pictures and make a collage of all your favorite high school memories to put in your room or new dorm.
- Check with your school and see if there is a service project you can perform.
- Take a treat to everyone on your team or in your choir or band to just let them know that you miss them. Include a personal note or favorite memory.
WAYS TO POSITIVELY FRAME OR TALK ABOUT A MISSED GRADUATION
First of all, you need to know your child, but I loved the way some parents have used this as a teaching moment for life. First, you must honor the way they feel about the situation and what a disappointment it is for everyone. Remember that reminding them of people who have had harder or worse isn’t helpful, but these thoughts seemed worth passing along:
- You still have wonderful and cherished memories from your high school years and this strange time and unconventional graduation will be one of them. Just because it didn’t end the way you hoped doesn’t erase all the good stuff.
- You have the ability to find the positive even in really difficult situations. This is a lifelong skill that will make your future so much more enjoyable. When you feel ready, start finding the good in all of this.
- You are uniquely suited for this experience. You are resilient and good with the unexpected and change, which is such a blessing because life rarely follows the plan you make and as adults we are often disappointed or thrown curve balls and this experience will prepare you to roll with the punches and still find purpose and light.
- I am here to support you and love you. I don’t want to tell you how to feel because every feeling is okay to have right now, but I want you to know that I am here for you.
Hope these ideas make graduation and the end of the school year special even with this different circumstances. Do you or your school have another idea? I would love for you to share it in the comments!