Ending the HSC with a happy and peaceful household may seem like an impossible task for those families about to guide their teenagers into exams. This period will create elevated stress for everyone living in a household with a highly emotional and reactive Year 12 student. Whether your child has dealt with their stress in a cool, calm and collected manner, or by ignoring and becoming extremely demanding of family members, remember they are learning the lesson of coping with life’s challenges.
The saying goes ‘the HSC is not the end of your life’ and alongside the 69,000 other students partaking this year, your child will make it through. Remember that a mark is not a defining quality, and a failure is simply a stepping-stone to improvement. No matter the result, making it through the HSC is an achievement and the mark received only offers more options. Prior to receiving results and completing university applications, understand where your child wants to go so you can help make a backup plan to put them on their chosen path, even if it takes a few extra years.
Dr. Anna Cohen, Sydney’s leading Clinical Child Psychologist from Kids & Co. gives parents advice on how to try and maintain family cohesion and helping their stressed and anxious HSC teen get to the finish line.
- Maintain routine and structure. In attempting to make sure the HSC does not become a household lifestyle, try to keep family routines as normal as possible. This includes having your child complete their standard chores such as unpacking a dishwasher, doing their washing or keeping their room clean. Nagging isn’t constructive, so make sure they understand this is a clear expectation at the beginning of the week. That said, if a young person is working really hard, you can say to them, “I can see how hard you’re working and I am happy to do your chores this week”. Any extra jobs completed should be acknowledged, to show them that you do notice and help them feel valued. Ensuring your child has a sleeping pattern will prove invaluable to using their time productively. Whilst sleeping until 12 pm may be tempting now the 6 am school alarm doesn’t go off, try and help them stick to a daily routine.
- Clear an area for them to study. This is particularly important if there are siblings in the house, as a living room should still remain a collective family area. The studying should occur in a quiet place where they are able to focus and not worry about what else is happening in the house. This will also help you avoid having to look at the ‘study’ mess of endless books and papers sprawled across an area.
- Healthy diet all around. Keeping consistent meal times and eating together is important so your hard studier doesn’t become a hermit of the family. Don’t let study be an excuse for missing dinner or sitting alone for meals. This will also give them a needed break to refresh their brains. Encourage your child to keep a bottle or jug of water where they are studying, to stay hydrated. A colourful tea-cup can also be helpful.
- Learn with them. Remember in life there is always more to learn, so help your teenager by going through practice questions or palm cards. Rewards can come in handy here. Help them to simulate exam conditions by being a timer and exam helper, which will build their confidence before the final paper.
- Give time to ignoring the HSC. Getting out of the house and doing other activities will be one of the most helpful study techniques you can learn. Having time to regroup and refresh the brain and body will never be more important. Exercise is key to this, so going on a walk or doing a physical activity will be an important support tactic. Encourage them to go and get a coffee with friends or have a night off.
- Lead by example. As a parent, stay understanding and try not to react to their stress levels or anger. Prepare to have a slightly higher tolerance level especially when it comes to keeping a tidy room. However, don’t feel as though they should have no responsibilities.
Whilst parents and teens will feel varying degrees of stress at points of the exam countdown, it is important to maintain family cohesion and consistency that will create a supportive household. Acknowledge your child’s efforts and have sympathy, but not excessive amounts. Remember – everyone goes through it at some point.
For more information or professional advice contact Sydney’s leading Child Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Anna Cohen at Kids & Co. – www.kidsandco.com.au