Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

May 9, 2016

Helping Seniors Say Good-bye to their High School Experience

Does your school have any rituals or practices that help seniors make their first major transition in life? There are always those students who cannot wait to leave high school, but for many seniors, they are about to leave a place they feel like is a home with peers and adult faculty, staff, and coaches who have become familiar and dear to them. This may be just their first separation, though, as some will leave their families for schools or the military and go far away.

There seems to be more literature about how teachers and parents can say good-bye and let go with their graduating seniors than guidance for helping teens themselves leave their friends and families. Teens can use some help with transitioning too. Suggest some of the following opportunities:

  • Invite students see that their lives will no longer be the same although that does not mean that their lives will change for the worse!
  • Give students time for reflection, whether that be through meditation, journaling, or taking walks. Reflection can help students identify areas of challenge and worry. Class discussion then can help seniors surface these concerns in a safe place.
  • Suggest that students take one day at a time rather than taking on the totality of the change in front of them and try to live in the moments in a mindful way.
  • Recommend that seniors find adult mentors with whom they can process the upcoming changes, that is, with people who have “been there.” If you feel comfortable, offer your own time for this kind of conversation.
  • Encourage students to think optimistically about the future. Remind them of the Christian faith in the Resurrection: that life comes out of deaths like leaving one community for a new one. Hope is the appropriate Christian response to the unknown future.

Also, you may want to remind the students about Jesus’ first disciples. They had spent several years with Jesus and had given up their previous lives to follow him. All of a sudden, without much warning, Jesus died at the hand of the state. Their presence in the “upper room” reflects the type of paralysis and anxiety they felt even after encountering the Risen Jesus. They were in this interim state until they received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, at which point they were able to share the Good News and baptize just as Jesus had commissioned them to do.

Like those first disciples, tends need time to transition from one way of being in the world to a new one. Seniors should not expect that they can just sail through graduation and on to their new lives without some processing and “in between” time. They should be patient with themselves and expect the help of the Holy Spirit as they move on to the next stages of their lives. Remind your students that God, who loves them beyond their understanding, wants them to succeed. They should count on his help.

(Several of these suggestions are based on the short article, “Life Changes: 5 Tips for Getting through Any Period of Transition,” by Carolyn Gregoire, December 11, 2012, Huff Post Teen.)

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