It is not just students who can find the HSC year a very stressful and difficult time. Family members also need support; they want to help but are often fearful of appearing to interfere in the study process.
Periods of stress are frequent in their final year of school. In addition to sitting for the HSC, Year 12 students may be subject to many factors that can produce stress in their lives.
They may: lose interest in school, have no plans for after the HSC, develop an intense relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend, gain a driver’s licence, experiment with legal or illegal drugs, have a part-time job, be a member of a sporting team, develop an eating disorder or suffer from depression.
All these are complications which can cause parents and caregivers additional concern. You are not alone. NSW HSC online provides information on the people and agencies that you can contact for help with personal, academic and career issues.
The most obvious forms of support parents can offer are the practical, physical things:
• Provide a good place to study. Ideally it should be quiet, a comfortable temperature, with good ventilation, good lighting, adequate desk or table space and free from distractions such as TV, noise, telephone, conversations, little brothers and sisters.
• Provide good, balanced meals. Encourage sensible levels of sleep and some form of regular exercise. Encourage moderation in late night parties and alcohol consumption.
Less obvious but of equally important are the things you can do to provide a positive and understanding emotional environment:
• Be supportive and encouraging by reassuring them. If you have doubts, keep them to yourself.
• Highlight strengths and successes. Encourage your child not to dwell on failures. Reframe failures as ‘mistakes’ and encourage them to see mistakes as something we can learn from.
• Appreciate that most students will be experiencing quite a high level of stress, frequently without any obvious indicators. Many fear that they might let their family down or that they will not be able to match the performance of siblings or relatives.
There are also many pressures other than examination pressures. Many students experience a sense of impending departure: leaving home, leaving lifelong friends, the prospect of starting university.
• Appreciate that it is normal for people under pressure to become supersensitive and explosive from time to time. Family members are usually the first targets. Try not to overreact to such outbursts.
• Encourage a reasonable balance between work and leisure. Planned leisure periods are an essential component of a good study program.
• An occasional total escape for a few days may also be excellent therapy for a student who is feeling excessively stressed.
Encourage and allow your child to be as independent as you can possibly stand.
The more independent he or she can be in meeting the demands of Year 12, the better prepared he or she will be to succeed at a tertiary level or in the workforce.