10 ways to help your teenager through their Year 12 exams

Parent helping Year 12 student with stress

It is common for teenagers to feel stressed during their final Year 12 exams. Discover how you can provide support to help them relieve the pressure.

End of Year 12 exams are a major academic milestone for high school students and it plays a role in determining their future educational and career paths. As a result, the intense pressure and stress of this final year can be overwhelming for many young people.

As a parent, you play a crucial role in supporting your teen through this challenging period. Try these 10 ways to help your child manage their Year 12 stress and anxiety.

1. Create a study timetable

One of the most effective ways to offer help to your teen during their HSC, VCE, QCE or SACE is to create a study timetable together to manage their workload. Be realistic and include time for friends, leisure and exercise as well as study. Try writing it out and sticking it on the fridge, so you both know what they’re supposed to be doing and when. Encourage your teenager to stick to the timetable as much as possible, but also be flexible if they need to adjust it to suit their needs.

2. Reduce household chores

During Year 12, your teenager’s main priority should be their studies. To help them focus, try to reduce their household chores and responsibilities. Offer to take on some of their tasks, rope in a younger sibling to help or just let that particular chore slide for a few weeks. This will free up more time for your child to study and relax. Plus, if you’re already having to remind them to stick to their study schedule, it’s one less thing for you to have to chase

3. Encourage healthy eating habits

A healthy diet is essential for optimal brain function and managing stress during the HSC, VCE, QCE and SACE period. Encourage your teen to eat a balanced diet, with plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein and whole grains. Keep the fridge stocked with quick and healthy snacks and limit the availability of processed foods, sugary drinks and snacks high in fat and sugar. If you can, make time for meals with family at the table, rather than letting your teen eat at a desk while they study.

Balanced diet for optimal study

4. Be a study buddy

Offer help to your teen by proofreading (not rewriting) essays, testing them on what they’ve learned, discussing concepts and giving feedback on assignments. Even if you’re just talking about what they’re studying over dinner, any reinforcement of what they’re learning will help them remember and recall it later. You might even learn something interesting. Just remember that everyone learns differently and they may prefer to study alone.

5. Promote regular exercise

Regular exercise can help reduce stress, improve mood and boost cognitive function – essentials for effective study. Encourage your teen to incorporate exercise into their daily routine, whether it's going for a walk, hitting the gym or doing YouTube yoga videos. Keeping up with their usual team sports commitments is a good way for them to keep moving, give their brain a break and socialise at the same time.

Year 12 student exercising

6. Provide emotional support

During Year 12, students will probably experience a range of emotions, from frustration and anxiety to excitement and relief. As a parent, it's your job to provide emotional support and encouragement, even when they’re being difficult. Be available to listen when needed; you can talk and offer advice but the most important thing is to just be there.

7. Be pro-break

Studying for long periods without breaks may feel like a good idea but it is usually counterproductive and can lead to anxiety, burnout and reduced productivity during their HSC, VCE, QCE or SACE. Make sure your teen schedules regular breaks – it doesn’t matter too much what they do with this time, as long as it’s away from their books and it’s relaxing for them. If you’re able, spend time doing something together on their breaks, but don’t be offended if they’d rather be alone or with friends.

8. Keep an eye on mental health

The pressure of  Year 12 can take a huge toll on students’ mental health. Be aware of any signs that your child may be struggling with HSC, VCE, QCE or SACE anxiety, such as changes in mood or behaviour, sleep disturbances or loss of interest in activities they usually enjoy. Talk to them about how they’re feeling and any specific worries they have, and remind them that there’s more to life than an ATAR. If you are concerned, seek professional help from a GP or psychologist.

Year 12 student with parent

9. Celebrate those little achievements 

Year 12 is a long and challenging journey and can feel like a real slog (for them and for you). Celebrate their achievements, whether it’s a good exam result, completing a challenging assignment or just making progress. Acknowledging their hard work and effort will help them feel positive about the process and keep them motivated and on track.

10. Maintain perspective

While the HSC is an important milestone, it's also vital to maintain perspective and remember that it’s not the only pathway to success. Watch how you talk about it, and avoid placing too much emphasis on results. These marks won’t define the rest of your teen’s life – at Torrens University, for example, we don’t require an ATAR for admission into our courses. Encourage your child to explore their interests and passions, and to consider alternative post-school options, such as vocational education, apprenticeships or a gap year.

HSC, VCE, QCE and SACE is a challenging time for students but there are ways you can offer help. As much as you can, be patient, understanding and supportive throughout this journey – there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

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