20 Special Ways to Celebrate Seniors Who Won't Get a Graduation

young woman wearing a graduation cap and gown looking away, special things to do for graduates who won't get graduation

We want to do something. Our graduates have worked hard. To not be able to celebrate the incredible accomplishment of 13 years of schooling is hard on a graduate’s heart and their parents’ too. They’ve spent somewhere around 2,340 hours doing schooling, and you want to honor them for the accomplishment of making it to the finish line.

But how do we celebrate with shelter in place orders, social distancing, or self-quarantine?

It might not be anywhere near the same, but it is possible.

Before you begin planning, ask your graduate what would bless them and what would make them cringe. Know your child: do they hate public attention, but crave it on a smaller scale? Would they want to include others, or just celebrate as a family? Do they need an encouraging boost? Or, are they over it and ready to move on?

Next, consider making sure you have talked with them about how they feel. Acknowledge that not having baccalaureate services, team banquets, prom, and graduations is incredibly hard and disappointing. Let them know that you hear and see them in that before planning lots of alternatives. Also, be certain that they know that alternatives don’t come close to the real things.

Lastly, pray for them. Honor your graduates with your prayers. Write them down for them or pray with them. What better gift could you give them than surrendering them, their hurts, and future plans to the Lord? They’ll be blessed by the intimacy, encouraged in their faith, and inspired by the example that you’ll set.

If some fun, reflection, celebrating, and honoring is needed, here are 20 alternatives:

Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Andre Hunter

  • hand holding letters spelling senior

    1. Yard Signs

    Many schools have made yard signs for their graduating seniors, to place in their front yards. If yours has not, make your own! Check with your local print shop.

    2. Neighborhood Signs

    Connect as a neighborhood to create a large banner of graduates’ names to place by the entrance to your neighborhood. In many cases, the neighbors have watched the seniors grow up as well. It has taken a village to raise your kid and neighbors are likely on that list.

    3. T-shirt Quilt

    Graduates may have drawers filled with commemorative t-shirts from their sports, reading bowl competitions, or band lives. With permission, consider making those t-shirts into a snuggly blanket that they’ll have and use for years to come. Google t-shirt quilt and local quilters’ names will pop up. You can support an artisan and gift your graduate with a very special, cozy keepsake.

    Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Jen Theodore

  • <strong>4. Letters</strong>

    4. Letters

    Everyone loves a handwritten letter and graduates will too. Ask everyone that has loved and invested in your child to write them a handwritten letter. Write a group email, or a social media post, asking friends and family to send letters. Also include your child’s former teachers, coaches, pastors, or mentors.

    5. Written Prayers

    An impactful twist on the letter drive would be to ask all those same people in your child’s “village” to write out prayers for the graduate. Your child will be celebrated, built up, and blessed by the prayers of many.

    6. Photo Shoot

    Do a celebratory photoshoot with your child’s cap and gown, memorabilia, instruments, or sports equipment. You can pay a photographer to do a shoot from a distance, or simply have a fun photoshoot of your own at your home, or a special location. Make it fun by planning out funny poses too!

  • <strong>7. Senior Suppers</strong>

    7. Senior Suppers

    During the week that would have been graduation, celebrate with senior suppers. You could be intentional and plan out the days ahead of time. These could include picking up take-out from your child’s favorite restaurants or homemade/semi-homemade meals.
    Some fun ideas could include fixing a memorable meal from their childhood, such as the chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese that they begged for as a 1st grader. Or, a few of the senior's favorite family dishes. Maybe French food to commemorate a trip to France with the French club? An appetizer night with their favorite party foods? The pasta meal that your runner had with his team the night before every cross-country meet? All the after-school snacks they’d have with neighboring friends? Or, a pizza from the pizza place where they once worked?
    Enjoy planning these, as it will also be a fun time to reflect together.

    8. Artistic Reflection

    If your child is an artist of any sort, suggest that they write, bake cookies for friends, take photos, paint, sculpt, or write a song to commemorate any aspect of being a senior. Offer to buy all the supplies and not fuss about the paints all over the kitchen table, or the guitar strums at 11 PM. Maybe creating some art by themselves, for themselves, or to gift to others would be the best medicine for the moment.

    Photo Credit: © Getty Images/monkeybusinessimages

  • couple waving out of car window smiling happy

    9. Car Parades

    Set a date and time and ask friends, family, and neighbors to drive by to honor and celebrate your graduate. As they stand in the driveway, they’ll be blessed by all the special people that walk or drive by. Order balloons in their school colors, play loud music, and make posters. Have fun with it!

    10. Adopt-a-Senior

    Facebook groups designed to “adopt” and celebrate seniors are popping up all over the country. If your town doesn’t have one going, then start one. Create a list of guidelines that will ensure that every graduate is chosen. Those who sign-up for the senior can celebrate them in any creative way they choose.

    11. Scavenger Hunt

    Send your graduate out on a scavenger hunt! Think of special places to safely hide gifts or notes, and a clue for their next locations. Have them return to a mini family party with their favorite food.

    If you are comfortable, even with shelter in place or self-quarantine, you could include several special places. On the sidewalk, by the church where they grew up? Somewhere hidden and safe by their schools? By the softball field, where they played? A friend's front yard? Or in the treehouse they played in the backyard? You’ll have fun reflecting while thinking of locations, and your graduate will love finding fun things in special places.

    Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Wavebreakmedia

  • <strong>12. Virtual Party and Character Trait Celebration</strong>

    12. Virtual Party and Character Trait Celebration

    Set a date and time to host a virtual party. Get balloons and have party food at your house. Be intentional and ask each person invited to hold up a sign stating their congratulations, or inscribed with the personality trait they think your child possesses. Imagine your child seeing a screen full of people honoring their character traits. Don’t forget to snag some screenshots!

    13. Videos/ Video Day

    Turn favorite photos into a video slideshow with their favorite songs included. Or, ask friends and family to make a short video for your graduate and send it to you to compile for a video.

    If you want to keep it simple, ask friends and family if they could send a congratulatory and encouraging short video directly to your child on the day that would have been their graduation. Imagine your senior getting videos all day long! They’ll have to smile!

    14. Social Media Senior Spotlights

    Participate in social media spotlights. If you’d rather skip listing all their achievements, list some of their activities and the characteristics that they possess.

    Photo Credit: © Getty Images

  • <strong>15. Record How God Has Provided</strong>

    15. Record How God Has Provided

    Take an evening to intentionally remember how God has brought them this far. How and when did He show up in obvious ways? What hard times did He help you through? What prayers were answered? What did He teach you? Write representative words down on polished rocks to put in a pretty bowl you’ve bought for them. As they step into their future, they’ll more easily remember what God has already done. Maybe they’ll even keep placing rocks in their bowl.

    16. Cookies or a Cake

    Buy or make special graduation sugar cookies. Consider a local bakery or baking friend who will let you pick them up from their porch. Or, order a cake with their face or cap and gown decorations from your grocery store. They’ll hate it but love it.

    17. Senior Fireplace Bunting

    Pull out all your child’s school photos and hang them in order with paper clips or cute clothespins on a string. Hang it across your fireplace.

  • gold graduation balloons

    18. 2020 Balloons or School Colors

    Order 2020 number balloons, or balloons in their school colors (high school or the college they plan to attend), from a party store or balloon company that delivers.

    19. Flowers

    Don’t underestimate the power of flowers. Everyone loves to have a bouquet arrive at their door.

    20. Memory Book

    Create a memory book with photos from their school career or senior year. Include quarantine photos as well, as this time will certainly be remembered. 

    Though not in the ballpark of what they had expected and dreamed of, there are some fun and honoring ways you can celebrate your incredibly special 2020 graduate.

    Rebecca Radicchi, her husband and crew of kids, live outside Atlanta, where the summers are hot and the tea is sweet. She’s ridden the waves of adoption, breast cancer, and being the mom of kids with complex medical needs. And, through it all, she’s seen that abundance can be found in the uncomfortable hard and in the easy beautiful. She’s also discovered that whether she’s passing bread at the kitchen table, clock-watching in a hospital waiting room, or listening to a neighbor on a porch swing, God always has something to say. It’s a wonder really. She encourages others to listen for it too on her website and Instagram, and also connects with adoptive families at No Hands But Ours.

    Photo Credit: © Getty Images/VPanteon