By Lisa B. Hillman, MSW, LCSW Owner/Director Exceptional Wellness Counseling

Image by Mohammad Shahhosseini

We have all heard the news that there will be no graduation during June. Although there have been whispers that some schools may have an in-person graduation (For us locals, the FRSHSD may have an in-person graduation the week of July 27th, though there is no guarantee). 

What is the Impact of No Graduation on Our Kids & Parents?

As parents of an 8th & 12th grader, we were looking forward to two graduations this June. My younger daughter, Emma, was kind enough to acknowledge that she felt sadder for her older sister, Julia, than for herself. Either way, this whole thing really sucks (I’m sorry but I can’t figure out a better word to use)! I know Julia, her friends, and our clients at our practice who were supposed to graduate from the elementary, middle, high school, and college have all been feeling sad about the loss.

For each commemoration the loss is different. For younger children, there is a loss of accomplishment, recognition, parties, even 8th-grade dances. For our seniors, there are numerous losses, including prom, graduation, and “after-party” celebrations. Of course for college students and beyond, June was supposed to be a time to reflect upon all of their hard work and efforts. 

For those of you who are parents/guardians or grandparents, there is a loss of celebration. The coronavirus has taken away so much already. This is another notch in its belt. And it has been a long belt! 

Take Back Some Control (yes, even during a pandemic)!

Right now there are so many things we cannot do, or “should” not do. However, there are many things that we can still do. One of those things is to be creative, to think outside the box. I have seen some awesome ideas from other states, from having graduation at a drive-in movie theatre to a principal visiting each graduating student. The possibilities are endless. We just need to be open to the possibilities.

As a therapist, my attitude is to look at the possibilities, not just accept things for as they are. Look for ways to take back control, show your inner strength, and make the best out of a situation. This pandemic is no different.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying we should sugarcoat things. This is not a fun time for anyone. There is tragedy, sickness, death, mental health issues, loss of income, and much more. I am saying that we need to take control of where we can. This is one of those situations where we can do things differently. 

We may not be able to have an in-person graduation, but you can participate in other ways to honor your child/ren or loved ones.

Fairy “Parents” to the Rescue!

I know that locally, in Manalapan and surrounding towns, on Facebook there is “adopt a senior” (12th grader), which then led to “adopt an 8th grader.”

The premise is the following: I post the name and picture of my child who is graduating as well as include information about her, such as her likes, accomplishments, personality, and the college she will be attending (for my senior). 

Next, someone “adopts” her. They surprise my child with various things that would make her day. My daughter Julia was adopted and has received some great things. Most recently she received a basket of beautiful cookies that were decorated with her college, her name, and because she wants to be a doctor, cookies that looked like a doctor gown with a stethoscope that had future dr. written on it.

In turn, we have “adopted” an 8th and 12th grader. It has been a lot of fun coming up with ideas and seeing their smiling faces.

We have all seen the lawn signs, masks with the graduating school or college name, banners, balloons, people are even doing virtual “proms.” Teachers and schools have been great in creating videos for their students and really coming together as a community. This is not a substitute for the real thing, but it’s something that our children will remember.

So what can you do? Or what are you doing? Are there other things that we can do to help our kids feel recognized and happier? If so, let’s DO IT!


Lisa Hillman is a mother of two daughters, ages 14 and 17. She’s also a wife, and mom to a precious dog named Colby (who is really spoiled). She founded Exceptional Wellness Counseling (EWC) to fill a need in the community. EWC has locations in Manalapan and Shrewsbury, NJ, and accepts a variety of insurances.

Check out Lisa’s professional bio here!

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