What is Behind Senioritis?

By: Christine Hammond, MS, IMH

Do you have a senior from high school or college who seems to have shut down and is no longer productive? Maybe they were productive in the past but now they are procrastinating, their grades are sliding, they don’t care about the things that mattered to them in the past and their tempers seem to be higher than normal. Or perhaps they seem to negatively obsess over a class, another student, or a family member. In short, your senior is different and not for the better.

Change is difficult for most people and transitioning from a high school student to a college student or from a college student into the workforce can be more change than they are prepared to handle. Stress levels are high whenever someone moves but add to that a change in status, change in environments, change in friendships, and change in expectations. Now you have a recipe for one stressed out senior. So how can you help? By paying attention to their behavior and acting accordingly you can alleviate some of the pressure.

Shutting down. One reason a senior shuts down is because they are overwhelmed with anticipation over what is expected from them in the future. Perhaps they have a scholarship to a college or job offers lined up and are anxious about living up to these new standards. So instead of finishing strong, they retreat to a protective shell of sorts and stop performing altogether. Begin by helping them admit that they are anxious and then try talking about a back-up plan if Plan A does not work to alleviate some of the anticipated pressure. Finally, inspect your own expectations to ensure they are realistic and not unrealistic.

Procrastinating. While one senior stops working altogether another one slows down their productivity to a crawl and frequently missed deadlines they would normally meet. This procrastinating may be a sign that they are nervous about the upcoming change and they are trying to delay the change by moving slower. At the subconscious level they are dragging everything out to make it last longer. Unfortunately time moves on regardless of our actions. Begin by helping them admit to the sadness they are feeling and allow them to reflect on the things they will miss going forward. Give them the opportunity to spend extra time with their friends so they can begin the process of saying good-bye.

Negative obsessing. Some seniors finish strong but seem to put all of their passions and negative energy attacking a class, teacher, fellow student or family member. They obsess over things that never bothered them before and act in a manner inconsistent with their personality. These students hyper focus their energy on one or two things to distract them from the negative feelings associated with their change. Begin by identifying their target of negative energy and remind them of how they managed effectively in the past with their obsession. Then discuss the other emotions such as sadness or anxiety they may be feeling and help them work through it.

Senior year can be an exciting time for students and the hope is that they will look back on their senior year with great memories. By working with your senior and helping them to identify the stressful feelings they may be experiencing you will help to ensure a good memory instead of a negative one.


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"Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2011), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit www.LifeWorksGroup.org or call 407-647-7005"

About the author- Chris Hammond is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern at LifeWorks Group w/ over 15 years of experience as a counselor, mentor & teacher for children, teenagers & adults.

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