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Transitional Anxiety During Graduation

May 18, 2022

High school graduation can be tough for teens. Here are ways to help.

At Hanna, we try to prepare our students for the future. For some that means college, trade school, joining the armed forces or straight into a career. Other students are unsure what the future holds. No matter what path Hanna students choose, there’s bound to be some kind of transitional anxiety as there are endless opportunities but also countless unknowns. Our Follow On Care program is designed to provide something many other high schools don’t: ongoing support to students before, during and well after they leave Hanna. After building such a close relationship with our boys, moving on from Hanna to live their best lives can be challenging.

Trish Goodwin, Manager of our Follow On Department says “We try to have soft but realistic, frank conversations with our seniors. Many of them do not want to leave and will try almost everything to stay. I think it is important to be honest with them. Tell them that while this change is coming and must happen, we are here as long as you need us to continue to provide support and/or potential resources.” She continues, “Prior to graduation, we are working with them and their support team in hopes of finalizing all exit plans including hopefully assisting them as they reach out to new communities albeit be a college counselor, employer, new clinicians and so forth.”

After graduation, Hanna’s Follow On department provides counseling on obtaining employment, general life and family skills plus a range of services to assist our alumni. We then stay in touch with these young men, support them, check in and continue to counsel and work with them spiritually and emotionally to make sure they have the means and resources to stay focused and on track to be successful in the community post graduation.

As students prepare to to leave high schools, some ways to lend support include…

  • Talk about it. While teens may be fearing the unknown, parents and peers may also be having intense feelings about such a big life change. Graduation could be a great way to connect.
  • Encourage communication with friends. After graduation, many high school friends scatter to a variety of places but that doesn’t mean they can’t all keep in touch. Staying connected in healthy relationships after high school can give a sense of normalcy and help ease the transition.
  • Meet new people. A new school or job can be intimidating and it can be challenging to find new people to connect with. It’s important to put yourself out there and not hide behind headphones or cell phones. Make yourself available to new people and experiences.
  • Be present and mindful. Rather than spending time wishing things could go back to “the way they were,” remind yourself that you’re growing up and moving forward. Be in the moment instead of in the past or concerned about the future.

 

Trish also added “I think tangible, day to day goals and tasks can be helpful. A lot of our students get very overwhelmed with what they still need to get accomplished or what they are going to do for the rest of their lives. Helping them break things down and focus on the small tasks instead of the whole big picture is often helpful. Again, normalize and support them that not being entirely sure what their life is going to look like is not only ok but also developmentally appropriate.”

 

She also added the following tips:

  • Making checklists has proven to be helpful as has consistent check-ins.
  • Sit with them while they make a nervous call to a future employer or college counselor.
  • Print out a calendar and assist them in setting up their college class schedule.
  • Set up a zoom meeting in which, the student shares their screen so they are doing the work and you are simply there to guide, teach and support.

Please note it’s always o.k. to reach out for professional help from a licensed therapist to help with transitional anxiety.