Proms, graduation parties, commencement ceremonies — it seems like all the classic rites of passage for seniors up and disappeared overnight. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t celebrate. In fact, without the restrictions of tried-and-true rituals, you can get personal. Here are a dozen ways to fete your favorite graduate.
1. Adopt a senior
Several Massachusetts towns have launched “adoption” programs for the class of 2020. In Waltham, for example, residents can choose a high school senior to sponsor. Photos of each senior and a short biography are posted within a Facebook group; the first resident to chime in with an adoption offer then becomes the student’s personal party planner. Volunteers offer to stage personalized car processions, decorate their homes, or send them gifts. Contact your town’s high school administration to inquire.
2. Throw a nostalgic dinner party
Ask your senior to make a wish list of his or her dream meal, and then dig into the archives for your memories of childhood favorite foods. Remember the year he ate nothing but chicken nuggets, or when she harbored a yen for Cool Ranch Doritos? Serve the throwbacks and the current favorites in courses. Decorate your dining area with photos, put on some party music, invite friends to Zoom in for a toast, and dig in.
3. Drive down memory lane
If it’s within driving distance, visit your child’s campus for a socially distant road trip. Queue up a soundtrack, pose at a few landmarks for photos, and stop for takeout at a favorite restaurant on the way home. If it’s not accessible, take a cruise through your town to stop for photos at important places, like your child’s first school or home.
4. Create a personalized yearbook
Ask friends and family to e-mail photos of your senior — throwbacks and current ones — along with a short tribute. Upload them to a service like Shutterfly, which specializes in hardcover photo albums in a variety of sizes and styles, complete with text. Get creative with assignments: Maybe one friend can contribute the top 10 favorite memories; another can write a funny poem.
5. Stage a scavenger hunt
Your senior’s old teddy bear? An embarrassing but hilarious junior high science project? Tuck a few mementos from your senior’s school career throughout the neighborhood for finding, with clues. Top off the hunt with a real present, such as a gift certificate to a favorite store or a new video game.
6. Create a wisdom registry
Many college graduates are anxious about the job market. Think about your networks and create a registry designed around things they’ll really need to know, based around areas of expertise, with instructions on how to redeem. Maybe your colleague will sign on for a half-hour of résumé editing. A savvy neighbor can consult on a LinkedIn profile or a budgeting software tutorial.
7. Arrange a weeklong gifting party
Instead of bombarding your graduate with gifts on one day, stretch the fun out. Give him or her something to look forward to with a “Gift of the Day” for a week, with a theme to go with each one. Maybe one day is “Feasting Friday,” with a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant to be used later. Another might be “Tech Tuesday,” with the gift of a coveted gadget.
8. Enroll in a virtual (fun!) class
Gather a group of your graduate’s pals for a fun, activity-focused Zoom session that they can enjoy together. Many restaurants are offering cooking classes. Boston’s Mei Mei is offering virtual dumpling classes, for example. Newton’s Paint Bar is offering virtual art classes.
9. Play “Guess Who?”
Round up a few influential people from your senior’s life, such as a favorite coach or inspiring teacher. Ask them to record a special video message for your senior and hang onto them. Then give your senior a set of clues so they can guess the person behind each tribute. Once they guess the name correctly, cue up the matching tribute.
10. Fund their virtual life
Curate a richer online experience by bankrolling online diversions: a subscription to Hulu, a 30-day virtual yoga series, or a gift subscription to a food delivery service such as Grubhub.
11. Assemble a book of family recipes
Hopefully, your homebound graduate will someday have his or her own kitchen, even though it might not seem like it now. Assemble a book of favorite family recipes with input from relatives, and maybe tuck in a supermarket gift card or two for good measure.
12. Do a triumph swap
Right now, many seniors are disappointed. They might not want to celebrate or to be reminded of what they lost. Honor their feelings by giving them reason to have hope: Ask family or friends to share stories of their own memories of overcoming adversity, along with a gift signifying what carried them through. Maybe one family member can gift an album that he listened to during tough times; another might share a book with a personalized reflection. Reframe the loss as a future triumphant memory.
Kara Baskin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @kcbaskin.