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To the parents of the Class of 2021 image

To the parents of the Class of 2021

Three tips and a prayer, from one family to another.

From a dad: tips for processing grief

I have worked with teenagers for the last 17 years in my role as a school chaplain. You might think that this would have given me some answers for the parents of our current Year 12s, which, this year, includes me. But these last two years have been like no other. 

Our community has been weighed down with grief as our kids have been forcefully dislocated from a life that was relatively predictable and thrust into one where the goalposts are always moving. Grief and uncertainty, deeply uncomfortable bedfellows, have eaten into the lives of so many these last two years. As a dad, it has been unbelievably difficult to navigate.

Being there for our kids has been vital this year as they approach the end of their schooling. In some way, we have had to shelve our own sense of uncertainty and grief in order to support them well. As a dad I just want to ‘fix it’ but that just isn’t appropriate or realistic. 

I have found it helpful to apply the principles of grief processing that I use when I conduct funerals for grieving families. They’re pretty simple: share stories, use humour and allow for time.

When we allow space for our kids to share their stories with us, without judgement, they will experience growth and transformation. When we share stories with other parents of Year 12 students in mutually supportive ways then we too can allow the grief bubbles to escape. Sharing our stories allows us to reimagine what was and offer possibilities of what might be. Stories are powerful, even life-changing, especially when we connect our stories to Jesus’ story.

Secondly, seeing the humour in situations relieves the tension. The best funerals I have conducted over the years have included humorous anecdotes that have acted like giant sighs of relief. It is not about taking the situation less seriously but rather allowing our funny bones to engage with what has been a ridiculous experience. Just think about the new catchphrases that have emerged over the last two years (like ‘unprecedented’, ‘flatten the curve’ and ‘get your jab’) and that should provide a giggle.

Lastly, time will pass, and this year will be a memory that has shaped us all. Giving our kids the time they need to work through some of these heavy emotions will bear fruit in years to come. Allowing ourselves the time to pause and reflect on our own experiences will also help us to navigate our way forwards. Jesus has modelled for us how to take time out and reconnect with the Father—we should do likewise. And let’s be patient with our kids, just as our heavenly Father is patient with us.

From a mum: a prayer from the heart

This year has made me acutely aware that I don’t have all the answers and I cannot make some situations better. I have been an observer to the struggle, not only of my own year 12 daughter but to those around us. Conversations with other mums and dads reflect a common narrative. 

We all know these last two years are ‘unprecedented’. Therefore, we can only hold on to what we know is unshakable, yesterday, today and tomorrow. It is the hope we have in Christ that not only sustains us, but allows us to thrive. Christ promises to be with us and, in prayer, we are invited to share with him our heart for our children. On my dark nights, prayer is the foundation on which I stand. This prayer is from one mamma’s heart to another for those times we are unsure what to pray. 

Father God, 
Thank you that our Year 12 children are made in your image (Genesis 1:27). I bring them to you right now in this season and at this time. Before they were born you knew them. By your hand they were fearfully and wonderfully made for such a time as this (Psalm 139; Esther 4:14). It’s comforting to know that nothing is a surprise to you.

Give our children the courage to walk boldly into the next few weeks as the HSC exams begin. You command us to be strong and courageous. Help our children to know that you are with them wherever they go (Joshua 1:9). If there are moments of doubt, may they be planted in your truth (Jeremiah 17:7–8). If they are overwhelmed, please bring your peace (John 14:27). If they lack courage, remind them that their strength comes from you (Philippians 4:13). Help them to take up the promise that no weapon formed against them will prosper (Isaiah 54:17).

We are confident that you, Lord, who began the good work in our children will see it through to completion (Philippians 1:6). Let their identity be grounded in the knowledge of who you say they are (John 1:12). Beyond today, I pray that all of our precious children will do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with you all the days of their lives (Micah 6:8) 

In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Matt and Annette Shorten are passionate about sharing Jesus with children and youth and their families. They have spent over twenty-five years doing this in schools, churches and with their own three daughters.


Unshakable: Following Jesus in Your Teens and Beyond

When should I start dating? Is it OK for Christians to drink alcohol? How do I tell my friends about Jesus? Do I need to go to church? What job does God want me to do? Unshakable answers some of the biggest questions facing teens and young people today.

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