The college application process is over, Spring Break is upon us, prom is around the corner and graduation is quickly approaching for our high school seniors. After 12 or more years in school, they are almost done and as they hunch over their laptops to complete their final projects and take their final exams. They can feel freedom in the air!
And so, if you have a senior at home, it is likely that they are experiencing some form of a highly contagious phenomenon that is frequent among high schoolers – it’s Senioritis. You may also know it by its other name, although not quite as familiar, The Senior Slump…and the time is also approaching for them to take The Big Leap when they go off to college later this year. (Look for another article on that in July!)
You may recognize the symptoms. They include:
- Increased tardiness, laziness and procrastination
- An increase of social events
- Mild to extreme cases of apathy in homework
- Mood swings
What is happening?
There’s a lot going on for our seniors and much of it has to do with their internal chaos of emotions. There is the nervousness and excitement about completing high school, fear of leaving high school and what they’ve known, elation about starting the next chapter of their lives, and for some, the pleasure of freedom from parents, and supervision. All of this is perfectly normal.
As a parent who likely went through all of this in your own youth, you may appreciate their emotional landscape, but also have some concerns of them burning out too soon and not quite making it to launch successfully.
There are reasons to be concerned. Colleges do pay attention to last semester’s grades or if a student changes from an AP class to a general course. If grades are too low they may cause the school to question the student’s commitment and ability to follow through.
There have been cases where university acceptance was revoked, student aid effected or students were put on academic probation during their first semester. (An unnecessary stressor when starting a new school – not a good way to start!)
However, colleges know and understand that students may slack a bit in the last semester of their senior year. They are not policing seniors; they have many more issues to deal with in their own backyards. However, it’s important not to fall too far behind.
So, while this may be a good scare tactic to keep your senior towing the line somewhat, here are some other suggestions and may be an opportunity for better communication with your young adult.
1. Senioritis is very normal
I think it’s important to understand that Senioritis is a very common phenomenon. Not every senior experiences this in the same way, or to the same degree. How we help support them during this time is important for them, and also important for us in our own growth as parents.
There is also some very good news. It is very likely that they will get over it, and there are some specific things that you can do to help them navigate through all of this.
2. Open up with your kid
Engage your senior in conversations for them to notice where they are at, particularly emotionally, and ask them what they are most grateful for in regards to different topics (this semester, a particular class, a specific teacher, their friends, being a senior, etc.). This may also help them stay in the present rather than the daydreaming state of what happens after graduation.
3. Help them to schedule and set goals
These final months are a marathon, not a sprint. Coupled with a likely increase in social and school events, fitting in study time and making grades puts a lot of pressure on your senior.
Take this time to sit down and talk about how they’re doing and getting it all done (well). See if you can work with them, their schedules and goals to break things down into doable chunks. It may help decrease their sense of overwhelm and anxiety.
Encourage study time with reliable friends to hold themselves accountable and put study time on their calendars to help them manage it all.
This kind of scheduling will be imperative in college or with jobs, so role modeling this type of life planning is a step in the successful adult direction.
4. Take time for downtime
The above being said, make sure your senior isn’t scheduled to the hilt, but they actually make sure that they have some downtime to relax, recharge and reset.
You may really need to start loosening the reigns as their last days of high school come to an end.
As this is an emotional time for them (even if they are not acknowledging it), it also wouldn’t be a bad idea for some quiet time to reflect and smell the roses. For both of you. It’s not all angst. There is likely much to celebrate!
5. Encourage their self-care
Also, encourage your senior to get lots of rest, which may mean encouraging them to go to bed early. Be playful with this! You may have a trip down memory lane. Encourage their self-care and ability to meet the goals they set for themselves.
They may need to just start seriously winding down. Hang out. Lay on their back and enjoy the sun on their face.
6. Seek out support and guidance
In many situations, you aren’t going to need to seek out help with this. But it might help to do so if you see your child slipping in ways that are seriously impacting their ability to function at school or at home. Maybe bounce this off of family and friends who have kids who have been or are also going through this right now or the school guidance counselor.
However, remember the end is near. It’s important for you too not to worry or stress too much over your soon-to-be graduate. They are just about to leave the nest, so this may also be an exercise in letting them learn to launch. And another reminder to us as parents that it is also a time for us to begin to let go.
I hope this blog has been helpful for you. After launching three kids, and helping other parents and seniors do the same, I am happy to be another resource for you if you need to calm or better understand you or your senior’s anxieties. Feel free to reach out and contact me for a free 15-minute consultation. I would be more than happy to help you navigate through all of this.