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While most adults have had more time to gain awareness and adjust to the changes in their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, Centura Health advises parents should expect the emotional impact on high school seniors to be a delayed response.

Many high school seniors have not had time to process the altered world around them as they have been preoccupied completing the rest of their 2020 coursework online and therefore may be holding back their reaction to these abrupt changes.

This delayed grief is likely to come from the fact that members of the class of 2020 are likely to feel robbed of the traditions and activities that senior classes before them were able to celebrate, including prom, their final semester of sports, theater productions and other performances, and many other ceremonies and rituals.

Dr. George Brandt, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Centura Health — Porter Adventist Hospital, said that is a common but concerning type of coping mechanism.

"Most young adults don’t have the coping skills yet to process this highly unprecedented school year and may resort to suppressing their grief and anxiety," said Brandt. "My concern is that once the school year has officially ended, these feelings may surface in graduates and negatively impact their transition into the next chapter of their life.

"Even though many of the scheduled senior events have passed, parents should look for concerning behavior and expect that anxiety and grief may become more apparent in the coming weeks. I encourage any parent that is concerned about their child’s behavior to reach out to their primary care physician or contact our mental health providers at Centura Health for healthy ways to help their kids cope."

In response to delayed anxiety, Brandt advised against assuming students can use social media to replace conventional interactions.

"For young adults, social media is a convenient way to communicate but it is not a substitute for personal connection," Brandt said. "This generation has a greater reliance on technology, and I encourage parents to be mindful of their kids’ time on social media especially with the social distancing precautions and continued impacts of COVID-19."

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