Inside this post: Senioritis is when your graduating teenager hits the wall and no longer has an interest in school. It’s a bit of a joke, but there are actions you can take to help your teen cross the high school finish line.
Why Your Teen Has a Classic Case of Senioritis and What You Can Do About It
Senior year can be filled with so many emotions. As your soon-to-be graduate goes through all the ups and downs of finishing their final year in high school, they may feel excited, stressed, overwhelmed, hopeful, scared, and exhausted.
This last stretch of the road can be bumpy and unpredictable with unexpected detours. Parents are holding on tight during this rollercoaster ride, hoping and praying everyone makes it through the dips and turns while keeping some semblance of sanity.
There are so many big decisions for high school seniors, and planning what lies ahead for your almost full-grown kid can be exhausting. And sometimes, the weight of it all can be heavy and hard as your senior transforms into this almost adult.
This is a pivotal year full of critical events, including the college admissions process or applying to trade schools or figuring out future employment. There is a rush to complete senior-year assignments and secure final grades. There are looming deadlines, social events, photos, paperwork, and all of the other things that go along with this time.
Your senior is preparing to take flight, and they may or may not feel ready to spread their wings.
Around this time of year, many seniors come down with an affliction known as senioritis: the complete lack of motivation or desire to get all the things done that they need to complete before graduation. From what I can tell, there are no known cures for this disease that seems to inflict every 12th grader we know.
You might also like to read: Senior Year Survival Tips from a Mom Who Has Been There
Senioritis Symptoms: How to Identify a Case
There are many symptoms of senioritis. These include but are not limited to:
- Procrastination, particularly on such items as homework, college applications, and financial aid forms.
- Short-term memory loss of any important due dates.
- A strong tendency towards laziness for anything school-related.
- Extreme difficulty waking in the morning and severe tardiness to most anything.
- Lack of interest in their academic performance, particularly if they received the acceptance letter they have been chasing.
- Sudden proclamations that they are too mature for high school.
- Increased frustration with other high schoolers, particularly freshmen, sophomores, and juniors who can no longer relate to their life.
But as much as we joke, senioritis symptoms can also include some negative factors, such as stress and anxiety, depression, and a feeling of hopelessness or despair. Endings and transitions can be hard, and each person handles it differently.
Senioritis sufferers don’t want to go to school, study for tests, or do much of anything academic-related. And they surely don’t want to do much of anything for their parents. In fact, they might slack off in pretty much everything, have little energy, or have zero desire to finish their senior year strong.
You might wonder why they are acting this way when they are so close to the completion of high school, but if you take a good, long look at all they’ve been going through, it makes perfect sense that our 12th graders are TIRED.
You Have a Diagnosis of Senioritis, So Now What?
Here are three reasons why your teenager may have senioritis, and a few tips to help them make it through their last semester of high school and beyond.
You may also like to read: Hos Do You Say Goodbye When It’s Time to Let Them Go
1. Your senior is mentally fatigued.
They are worn out from the long and laborious process of selecting schools and preparing college applications, scholarship submissions, and nerve-wracking interviews with college admissions officers. They might be overwhelmed with job applications, internships, exploring possible career options, or going through military exams and evaluations. They also could be trying to figure out their future plans or second-guessing their future, and the stress of it all is psychologically depleting.
They are drained from making so many huge decisions while still trying to keep up with their high school classes. They feel pressured to have it all together and meet the expectations of the outside world. Their mind is filled with the “what ifs” and “what thens” and “what nows” on an ongoing reel.
It’s a lot for their developing brains to process and take in. The mental overload is taxing, and may be something they have previously never experienced.
Try to make sure your senior gets some free time for themselves, and don’t make them feel guilty about it. Resist the temptation to push them at every juncture and encourage them to take some time to take care of their mental health. Sometimes the laziness we see with senioritis is actually a sign of exhaustion.
2. Your senior is emotionally drained.
Not only is your senior mentally fatigued, but they have experienced big feelings because of all these hard decisions in preparing for their graduation and what will come after. Their moods are unpredictable because their emotions are too.
They can be excited about all their special events and sad to have it all end. They might be worried about losing their lifelong friends when everything changes after graduation.
They might feel anxious about how and where they will fit in when they make it to their next destination.
They can be frustrated with the demands of school or the painful questions all those countless submission forms include. They can feel nervous about receiving college acceptance letters, worried and wondering where they’ll end up in their lives. They could be terrified the direction they choose won’t be the right one for them. They can feel defeated from receiving rejections or elated from being accepted into whatever area they choose to pursue. They might be proud of landing that dream job or thrilled about joining the army, but they’re scared about it all, too.
Some seniors may have no idea what they want to do next, where they want to go, or even if they feel ready to make a change. They are stuck in the unknown, constantly feeling uncertain and afraid.
The range of emotions of senioritis is long and wide for any senior right now, full of powerful feelings that can be utterly depleting.
Remind your impending graduate that everything they are feeling is okay and totally normal. Encourage them to take part in some of the fun parts of their senior experience to take their focus away from any deadlines or their crowded calendar or uncertainty they may feel. Try to get them to focus on the present instead of only the future.
3. Your senior is physically exhausted.
All that mental and emotional strain takes a toll on their bodies too. They may feel burnt out from the last four years. They may not be sleeping well because of all the worry, or they might not have enough time to sleep because they are trying to fit in all in.
Even the good stuff can be physically draining. Some seniors are working extra hours to save up for college or to live in their first apartment, while others might be staying out late with their friends, knowing their time together will soon end. Many seniors are training hard for their final sports season or rehearsing and practicing for their last big performance.
And with all that’s going on in their lives, they still have to get up and go to school, which is frankly, the last thing they want to do. They have been under a great deal of stress from all that comes with their last year. It’s no wonder they’re so physically drained too.
There’s a lot of behavior you might see that causes you to worry or make you angry, but try to get through to summer vacation.
Your senior might simply need to recover by doing whatever brings them joy and relaxation and self-satisfaction–and a break before they start their next chapter, whatever that may be.
They might need more time to sleep or be alone to process it all on their own. They may want to spend more time with their friends to blow off steam from all the pressure they’ve been feeling. They may slack on some of their home responsibilities, be messier than usual, and not follow through on what you ask them to do. Pick and choose your battles, and try to understand what may be causing this behavior.
They might be temperamental and unpredictable, disgruntled and rude. They might distance themselves from you, detaching in ways that are hurtful and hard. They may seem exasperated by your rules and expectations. They might be testing their own abilities to do life on their own, knowing they will soon be leaving their home.
This is all normal.
Just remember they are trying to figure things out and have a lot going on in their world. No matter what they say, this is a hard, albeit exciting, time for everyone.
While it may seem like they are doing nothing, they also need time to recuperate. And although their absence or lack of involvement at home might bother you, it’s simply what they need to do.
What We Can Do as Parents to Minimize Senioritis
As parents of seniors, we need to try and give them perspective during this time, and not add to their stress. Give them the space and freedom to choose what is best for their mental, emotional, and physical health. As hard as it may be, resist the urge to dole out negative consequences during this time (unless it is health or safety-related) and enjoy whatever part of this season you can.
Be patient and flexible, understanding and forgiving. Parenting a senior is exhausting, I know.
But try to tune into their own needs, how they are managing so many hard things, and support them in as many ways as you possibly can–and celebrate what they have achieved during the last four years.
They still need your guidance and reassurance, your unwavering belief in who they are, and your confidence in whatever they choose to be. The most important thing you can do is love them in whatever state they are in and ask them how you can help. Let them take the lead.
Your senior is reaching their precipice and the view is terrifying, whether they see a clear landscape ahead or not. While they are climbing toward their final height, preparing for their future flight, they need your steady hand and belief in them.
And most of all, they need your unconditional love that says you will always be there, wherever they land.
This is a contributed post by Christine Carter. She writes at TheMomCafe.com, where she hopes to encourage mothers everywhere through her humor, inspiration, and faith. Her work is published on several various online publications and she is the author of “Help and Hope While You’re Healing: A woman’s guide toward wellness while recovering from injury, surgery, or illness.” and “Follow Jesus: A Christian Teen’s Guide to Navigating the Online World”. Both sold on Amazon.