Each year, as graduation approaches, members of the graduating class might be experiencing “senioritis,” an unofficial condition characterized by a lack of motivation towards academic or extracurricular activities. Students suffering from senioritis may abuse substances, skip school, or even fail classes they should pass. Senioritis can have serious consequences including legal issues, substance addiction, deteriorated health, getting fired from a job, or not being accepted to a good college.
Most adults remember having at least a tinge of senioritis. It seems like a really normal phenomenon. Kids that have been in school continuously since age 3, 4, or 5, are pretty sick of it by the time they’re 18 and when there’s an end in sight, it’s so easy to just stop caring and coast to the finish line. Then, when you consider that after high school, most people can look forward to about 40 or 50 solid YEARS of work in the real world, it seems pretty easy to just give seniors a break and let them have their senioritis, right?
No, not really. It seems that it’s only easy to do that if the senior doesn’t happen to be your kid. When you watch the neighbor kid go through school, getting decent grades, participating in sports, and making and keeping friends for most of his academic career, then go a little nuts near the end of senior year, you just laugh it off as senioritis. You may even encourage him to skip a day of school, especially if he’s made it this far without ever being truant. You might smile to see him and several of his friends hungover after a little party. You know it’s no big deal. After a few weeks of that, he’ll get himself back together, finish up high school, go to college, and be a productive adult member of society. Yes, as long as it isn’t YOUR kid.
When it’s YOUR kid who has come down with a case of senioritis, it can make you crazy. You see his failing grades, his juvenile pranks, and his blatent disregard for homework and other school responsibilities as a sign of the apocalypse. Loud music blasting from speeding cars, taking girls off to get pizza when science reports are due certainly means that your son will wind up homeless and penniless regardless of already having been accepted to the local university. When YOUR kid loses his job at Best Buy, you become convinced that he’ll never make partner in his law firm when they discover the irresponsible behavior he exhibited senior year. So, because his very life is at stake, you freak out.
You yell, scream, threaten, punish, ground, withdraw, take away, restrict, and lecture. And, when that doesn’t work, you do it all over again, with more enthusiasm. After this has gone on a good month or two, both you and your senior are ready to kill each other and neither of you can stand the sight of the other. Not a stellar way to end high school.
It makes sense to remember that some senioritis can be expected and that most of the hijinks decent kids get up to don’t have any real long-lasting consequences. Freaking out about little things is going to make the situation worse. Just watch your senior with a loving, wise eye, and let them work it out as long as he hasn’t gotten into major trouble. If, however, you suspect your teen is developing a serious substance abuse problem, or even substance dependence, it’s time to get professional help. All your yelling, screaming, and nagging won’t do any good. Go to an expert. Otherwise, if it’s just ‘normal’ senioritis, you probably just want to ride it out. Graduation day always comes and kids with good track records almost always pull it together in the end.