How to deal with canceled rites of passage

How to deal with canceled rites of passage

Both prom and high school graduation are important “rites of passage” for teenagers. Cancellations due to COVID-19 have young people struggling to come to terms with this unexpected and unfair turn of events.

“Many teens are grieving,” says Dr. Gabrielle Roberts, a clinical psychologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital. “Not only have they lost their normal, everyday routines during this pandemic, they are also faced with the loss of an earned and important transition in life.”

Dr. Roberts offers some tips for parents on how to help their seniors cope during this difficult time.

  • Listen. Validate your child’s feelings of disappointment, worry, sadness and anger. Acknowledge that that this is a big deal.
  • Don’t minimize his or her feelings.
    • Be careful with silver linings, like “at least you and your friends a still connected online.”
    • Don’t push wisdom, like “three years from now, prom won’t mean as much.” It’s OK to complain. Avoid comparison statements, like “other people have it worse…”
  • Think creatively together. come up with fun ways to commemorate these special occasions with family or friends. Find safe ways to celebrate with friends, while social distancing.
  • Make plans for post COVID celebrations; offer ideas for when the quarantine is over.

Dr. Roberts adds that some teens may be motivated to find meaning in this chain of events, but she suggests parents let their child lead the conversation. It is true that the Class of 2020 will be remembered for many years to come.

Related Posts



  1. Grieving??? The Greatest Generation went off to war and probably didn’t have a prom either.
    Today’s generation needs to toughen up….no more participation trophies/ribbons.

  2. My granddaughter was an honor student with straight A’s. She earned her high school graduation. Nobody ever gave her a participation trophy, she has earned everything she’s ever gotten. I find older peoples attitude towards the young people who are going to be running our country someday to be somewhat offensive. The young people that I know are smart, eager, creative, hard-working. They deserve to grieve Over the loss of their rights of passage.

    My father was one of the people who went to war, immediately after high school. I highly doubt that he would begrudge the seniors now attending their high school graduations and proms. If anything he went to war so that the younger generations would be able to do those things freely.

Subscribe to health enews newsletter

About the Author

Evonne Woloshyn
Evonne Woloshyn

Evonne Woloshyn, health enews contributor, is director of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. Evonne began her career as an anchor and reporter in broadcast news. Over the past 20 years, she has worked in health care marketing in both Ohio and Illinois. Evonne loves to travel, spend time with family and is an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan!