Makin’ It Happen continued our weekly forum,  ‘I’m ok, are you ok?’ Wednesday with presenter Claire Garand, the Education Program Manager with Media Power Youth.  50 attendees including parents, educators, and youth joined together for “Quaranteenagers: Managing Emotions and Seeking Alternatives to Events and Group Gatherings!”

In this session, Claire skillfully facilitated an open forum that covered participants feelings about  rites of passage being postponed or worse, cancelled. The group discussed events like prom, graduation, spring sports, performances, and many more. The workshop presented coping strategies and event alternatives for the group to consider. 

Claire started the session by asking the young people on the call what kind of events had been cancelled and how they were feeling about it.    One student led the discussion saying “I’m sad,I love school and have always had a passion for it.  It didn’t hit me at first but later that night I cried.  It’s sad for me that graduation is cancelled and that I won’t be able to see my senior friends next year”.   

Many of the youth expressed feelings of sadness but also a great empathy for their peers that were seniors.   One person shared  that it was nice to have a break however she ‘hoped things will return to normal soon’.   

One adult on the call commended the youth who were speaking saying “thank you for your courage and powerful words and emotions”.  That adult expressed that they saw this time “as a grieving process and that it’s not a rigid thing but rather fluid.  Grief happens in stages”.  

Claire explained to the group that “the fact that so many things are unknown right now is making us feel like we don’t have control over the situation”.   Some suggestions offered to the group on managing this stress and grief were: 

  • Manage the amount of time you spend on screens where possible. Because of working on multiple devices at once, our brains get tired. We also aren’t used to looking at bright screens for this many hours a day. Recognize that your body might need to adjust, and take time away from screens when possible. When you need to be on your laptop or phone, try to only use one single medium. 
  • Do repetitive exercise, like jumping jacks, jog in place, anything to get your body moving. Try doing one of these when you switch gears during your day, like transitioning between two school subjects. 
  • Be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that this is an unprecedented circumstance, and everyone is going to handle it differently. 
  • Try calming activities like yoga, meditation, deep breathing, or a repetitive craft like knitting or coloring. There are many videos on youtube to help you with these activities. 

Everyone is going to feel slightly differently about both the importance of these events and the ways in which we can create similar events. These types of celebrations are considered rites of passage.  It’s important to celebrate transitions in life – it helps humans to move from one life stage to another. Think about weddings and birthday parties. These steps help us transition to the next phase in life. In terms of prom and graduation, this means adulthood. This not only affects the youth going through this transition but their caregivers and educators who have watched them grow. 

One of the young people on the call reflected on how important their 8th grade graduation was saying “it didn’t matter at first but as soon as I had it it felt important to me”.  They continued to say that it was “therapeutic to have these events because it let’s you have the closure you need,  right now it feels like time isn’t moving forward the way it used to”.    

The discussion continued on the topic of how the youth were handling the stress.  Many expressed having to find different outlets than they normally would to relieve the stress of current events.  Several youth were concerned for their friends that are engaging in risky behavior.  One participant expressed that “one of the risk factors for many teens is boredom.  I’m concerned for my peers because they are doing things they normally would not do”   

A participant from The Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester shared information about their Mobile Crisis Services as a resource (800) 688-3544 as well as 211 as resource for those in need of support.  

The group moved on to discuss if there could be a replacement to these traditional rites of passage.  Overwhelmingly, the youth on the call did not want something like an online graduation or prom.  They wanted to postpone these events and ‘make them better than ever”.

It was incredibly clear that this is an extremely difficult time for both youth and adults.  But there is hope. One youth put it like this “it’s a very rough time but i’m looking towards all the positives and there is a light at the end of the tunnel”.   

Join us next week for our next ‘I’m ok, are you ok’ forum.  Details will be available on Makin’ It Happen’s social media and website