Written by Dr. Carlene Fider, Big Sister to Alissa
The mentees in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Class of 2021 are undoubtedly resilient. Like the graduating class before them, these students ended their high school careers virtually. They accomplished this significant milestone after an entire school year—their senior year—socially distanced and isolated.
The Psychological Impact on the Class of 2021
The developmental and psychological impacts of missed milestones, social distancing, and virtual learning may not be known for years to come. However, what is known through research is the impact of mandated social isolation. Humans are social beings—yes, even the most introverted-introverts. Our overall mental and psychological health hinges on social connection.
In order to emerge from this experience resilient and thriving, it is extremely necessary that the Class of 2021, and all our youth, first admit that things have been challenging. The development of resilience will look different for each young person, but the following reminders can be useful:
Three Resiliency Reminders to Share with Your Mentee
- Be kind to yourself when you don’t perform your best. Things are hard for everyone right now—don’t beat yourself up if something goes wrong.
- Find a routine and stick to it. This can create a sense of comfort and predictability that can make you feel like you have control over some part of your life.
- Manage social media and news media intake. There is so much going on around us, and it can become overwhelming. Try to unplug, especially if and when things feel overwhelming.
Mentorship as a Solution
Mentorship can certainly mitigate some concerns related to the lasting impact facing the alarming rate of disconnected youth. In particular, the concern that the Class of 2021 will become the “lost generation.”
How Mentors Can Support their Class of 2021 Mentees
These and other interactions with their mentors can be significant in helping mentees achieve post-graduation success after such unprecedented circumstances. Here are some things that mentors can do right now to support their Class of 2021 mentees through this uniquely complex transition into adulthood.
- Create a safe space that is nonjudgmental so your mentee feels comfortable sharing the negative emotions they have that are associated with not being able to engage in senior celebrations like they hoped to.
- Help your mentee connect with loved ones in meaningful ways. Host a virtual ceremony or game night so your mentee can still have some connection to people they love and celebrate graduation with them.
- Help your mentee prioritize self-care. Check in with your mentee routinely to find out what they are doing for their health and well-being. Self-care might allow them to escape for a moment and provide them opportunities to refocus.
If there is concern about how your mentee is feeling or you get the feeling that their mental health may be in jeopardy, talk with their parent/guardian and match support specialist about possibly seeking professional help.
As it has been true throughout your mentorship journey, the most important thing you can do to support your Class of 2021 graduate is to show up. Hold space for them to grieve their missed milestones and assure them that you will be there to support them on their next steps after graduation.
About Dr. Carlene Fider
Carlene O. Fider, Ph. D is a Professor of Human Development at Pacific Oaks College and holds degrees in Psychology, Marital and Family Therapy, and Family Studies. She aims to empower students to become thought leaders and create sustainable change in the personal and professional spaces they inhabit. In 2020, Dr. Fider started volunteering with Big Brother Big Sisters of the Inland Empire as a mentor to Alissa.