Hear What They’re Actually Saying

You might be starting to tune out the impact of COVID-19 on everyone’s lives. You might be tired of hearing about ways to keep your kids entertained so you can get your work done. You might be overwhelmed by how much information is available yet how few real answers are provided.

But here’s a group I think a lot of us have overlooked: the high school and college seniors.

Senior year is a huge milestone. It’s a year that challenges each student in new ways, encouraging them to stretch to become better versions of themselves. They’re presented with new and exciting opportunities, like applying and getting accepted into college programs, exploring job opportunities and spring break trips, to name a few. Senior year is about hard work, having fun and making lasting memories.

Think back to your senior year in high school and (if appropriate) college. I bet at least one memory that comes to mind brings a big smile to your face.

Now consider the impact COVID-19 has had on the existing senior-year students. The trademark right-of-passage year so many have looked forward to has been taken from them. No school trips. No school plays or musicals. No sporting events (think about all those basketball players in the NCAA Division I basketball tournaments that won’t have the opportunity to play for scouts or to hear the cheers as they play their final game).

I recently heard from a senior in college who explained that this entire situation feels like a rug was ripped out from under them.

And it’s the perfect description. Schools have completely transitioned to e-learning environments and the quarantine has prevented friends from getting together to have those memorable experiences together.

So when you hear about someone else’s challenges, particularly those of senior students, how can you be more aware and responsive to their frustration and sadness? How can you be more responsive to this life changing event they aren’t quite sure how to manage? This is a big deal for them. After all, senior year is meant to be the year of perks, the year they’ve worked so hard to reach and enjoy.

What this tells me as a coach is you have an opportunity for active and mindful listening. This means listening to what they actually mean, not just to what is said. Listen through and past frustrations and outbursts for the emotions, challenges and concerns behind the delivery. Listen for content. Listen for what really matters.

It is in this type of listening that you will be able to better connect with them to determine what they really need and how you can help. You can’t make this specific event go away, but you can be present to ride along with them as they go through it. Sometimes, that is the best it can be.

Take Action
Reach out to any high school or college seniors who may be challenged with a new reality as they wrap up their final year in their specific school. Be interested in how they are really doing. Allow them to open up about their feelings and emotions. Acknowledge and validate their feelings. They need and want to be heard. Help them manage what they are feeling and direct them to express it in a positive and safe way. Some may need to find a new outlet (like this Tony award winner who encouraged all spring musical participants to upload their videos to share on Twitter with the tag #SunshineSongs).

Walking with these amazing people as they start to stretch their wings can reconnect you to your big moments, and to the memories of the people in your life who helped you understand, handle and succeed in them.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading 60-Day Review: How’s 2020 Working Out For You?

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