Helping your child survive the HSC!

Helping your child survive the HSC!

For year 12 students a lot of their energy at the moment would be focused on the HSC. This is a build-up after 13yrs of schooling and hard work. This can often be a time of stress and anxiety for young people. For our class of 2020, the stress is exacerbated by the Pandemic and all the losses they have faced. The Pandemic has resulted in the loss of most of the exciting and fun things that the students have looked forward to and worked really hard towards, i.e. fulfilling leadership responsibilities, sporting events, musicals, graduation, and they are left with the not so fun stuff i.e. study and exams. In addition to the losses, the uncertainty around exams and how classes will look and the ever-changing circumstances have added to the challenges our Year 12 students have had to face.

If your child is completing the HSC, there are some key strategies to help them to survive and to ease the anxiety and stress.  First and foremost is keeping things in perspective. Their ATAR is just a number and is not a reflection of who they are or how successful or happy they will be in their future.  Whatever happens, it is not the end of the world. If they have a passion for a career path, there are so many ways to get there now and later.

Encourage your child to set boundaries around important things such as sleep, ‘me time’, and study. Balance is critical to staying mentally well during the HSC. Drinking enough water and eating well will also help to maintain positive mental well-being during the study and exam periods.

If your child is struggling with procrastination, this does not mean they are bored or lazy, rather procrastination is a mechanism that our mind employs to cope when we are feeling worried or stressed. So if you notice your child tends to procrastinate, rather than getting hooked into negative thoughts about this i.e. ”I am lazy” or “I am hopeless”, see if you can help your child to reframe this as “I must be feeling a bit stressed, and there is lots I can do to help my stress and then I can return back to the task”

Some other tips to overcome procrastination are;

  • Remove distractions- if your child is studying near the Xbox it will be really hard to not be tempted to play!
  • Create incentives- set a motivating reward that might encourage your child to get started.
  • Turn off communications- encourage your child to put their phone on in flight mode to remove the constant alerts and distractions of social media.
  • Sometimes the best form of motivation is to just get started- Set a timer for 20 minutes and tell your child to keep studying until the alarm sounds. Procrastination is only effective so long as we don’t start the task. You’ll be surprised to see that, in most cases, your child will continue on with the task well after he/she hears the alarm.
  • It is ok to slip up- help your child forgive themselves if they do procrastinate and rather than getting hooked on the negative thoughts, push forward.

It is important to remind your child to not compare themselves to others. They can run their own race! This is their journey, encourage them to make it their own and remember they will better for having gone through the experience whatever the outcome! Remind them to take stock and reflect on how far they have come already.

Remember at 17 or 18, your child does not need to have it all sorted. Lots of adults don’t have it sorted yet, so chat with your child and tell them it is ok to be unsure and to give themselves time/space to work it out or try new things.

I suggest to parents to be available as a resource for their young people doing the HSC. Be around to check-in to see if they need anything (food, water, reassurance) during the exam period. They can encourage their child to have balance if they notice their young person is stressed, invite them to take a break, do something to wind down, and then come back to study. If parents notice their young person is more irritable and less rational during the study/exam period,  make space for this and to remember as parents that we don’t have to show up to every argument that presents itself. It is our job as parents to maintain our calm and help our young person stay grounded during this difficult time.

It is not helpful for parents to interrogate, nag, or micromanage their young person’s study. I can guarantee this will not get the outcome they are hoping for.

Parents can also provide reassurance to their teens. Uncertainty breeds panic, so hearing from a trusted love one that it will be ok whatever the outcome, will help to reduce the pressure that the young person might be feeling. While the HSC marks the completion of their school journey, it is certainly not the be-all and end-all.

For resources to help your family stay healthy during the HSC click here

This article is general in nature. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice and you should seek professional verification on matters such as legal, health and wellness, travel or financial opinion prior to relying on such information.
Melissa Theobald

Melissa is a mother of two boys and also an experienced Clinical Psychologist with over 25 years clinical experience working across a range of settings. Melissa started her journey working in both Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and in GP practices working with adults.

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