CONTACT Dear Dr. T: 'I'm late to graduate' - Dr. Christian Thurstone

Dear Dr. T: I’ve been hiding a secret from all of my friends. I’m a senior, and I’m not graduating from high school this year. It’s a long story, but I didn’t pass a lot of my classes. I’m not sure how to tell my friends, and I feel like graduation is a ticking time bomb that’s right around the corner. — Embarrassed

Dear Embarrassed: Something happened that caused you to not pass a lot your classes. You feel embarrassed and ashamed and haven’t been able to tell your friends — but they are about to find out anyway. So, it’s better if they find out from you as opposed to someone else. Here’s what to do:

First, muster up your courage. Remind yourself that these things happen; that your delayed graduation is not the end of the world; and that in the grand scheme of things, there is nothing to be ashamed of. Next, tell your friends what is going on. Say something like, “It looks like I won’t have enough credits to graduate this spring.” You can tell them individually, as a group, in person or by text. Use whichever way is most comfortable for you. Also consider sharing with your friends what has happened to cause your delayed graduation.

Next, figure out how your friends can be helpful and supportive to you. Do you want them not to tell anyone else? Do you want them to still invite you to their graduation parties? How do you want them to respond? Once you figure these things out, let your friends know. For example, you may want to tell your friends, “Even though I’m not graduating with you, will you still include me in your graduation celebration?” Or you may want to say, “Please keep this between you and me for now. I’d like to tell everyone else myself.” As you learn which friends can be most helpful and supportive, be honest about how they can also help you remain on track to earn your diploma.

Good luck with these tough conversations — and stay encouraged about your ability to do great things.

Disclaimer: The comments made by Dr. Christian Thurstone are not intended as, and should not be considered, medical or psychiatric advice. Though he strives to provide information and perspective that is accurate and useful, he recommends that you seek the services of a competent, independent mental health professional in the relevant jurisdiction for the personal help and advice you may require.

About Chris Thurstone

Dr. Christian Thurstone is one of only a few dozen physicians in the United States who are board-certified in general, child and adolescent and addictions psychiatry. He is Director of Behavioral Health Services at Denver Health and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado, where he conducts research on youth substance use and addiction and serves as director of medical training for the university’s addiction psychiatry fellowship program. You can read more about him here.

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