6 Tips For Parenting Teens In Their HSC Year

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Parenting: How To Help Your Child Survive The HSC

BY BRITTANY MCGILL

Will your child survive the HSC?

Will your child survive the HSC?

The HSC is a tough year for both students and their parents. Indeed, I have heard many parents say that it feels like the entire family is put through the wringer!

Parents grapple with wanting their teenager to do the absolute best that they can do, whilst not wanting to apply so much pressure and become so over-involved that their child becomes a nervous wreck.

It can be particularly difficult to strike a balance between trusting your teenager’s judgment, respecting their autonomy, and setting reasonable expectations and standards.

Here are our top tips for parenting your teen through the HSC.

Tip #1: Encourage Realistic Thinking

At some point in their HSC year your child will doubt themselves or worry about their performance. You might also have moments of panic but try not to show it. Your child will look to you to gauge the situation and if they see you panicking it will reinforce their fears. Instead, help de-catastrophise worries and alleviate your child’s self-doubts by helping them look at things realistically and encouraging practical problem-solving:

“Remember how worried you were that you wouldn’t finish your ancient history essay 3 weeks ago, and think about all the other times you’ve felt stressed about getting something finished in time, but have you ever not gotten an assignment in on time?”

“If the worst happened (which is unlikely) and you couldn’t get it done, what would we do and who could we speak to to fix the situation?”

Tip #2: Keep Perspective

Provide unwavering support for your child’s goals, but if your child is putting themselves under too much pressure help them to keep the HSC in perspective. Despite the hype, the HSC is not the be-all and end-all, and there are nearly always other ways to reach a desired goal.

Normalise worries about the future, but encourage your child not to get too tangled up in these worries. Do this by helping them to set goals that focus on what they can achieve in the here and now (e.g. I will do 2 hours of study for math today), and try to avoid goals that are outcome focused (e.g. I will get 95% in my math test).

Tip #3: Provide Practical Support

Don’t underestimate the helpfulness of practical support like nutritious meals and snacks, a lift to school, or clean sheets and towels. Remember, sometimes a simple gesture like cup of tea and a biscuit or a hug is much more tolerable to a teenager than encouraging them to ‘talk things out’.

Tip #4: Encourage Balance

Encourage a reasonable balance between study, social activities, and leisure/relaxation. Six hours of study each evening is unrealistic. Planned breaks involving exercise (or at the very least, some fresh air), ‘wind down’ time, or fun activities, are essential for an effective study routine. An occasional complete break from study for a couple of days may be required for students who are feeling very stressed or burnt-out. Finally, a good amount of sleep on most nights is absolutely essential to ensure that your teenager has enough ‘fuel in the tank’ to make it through the year.

Tip #5: Make Concessions

Given the pressure of the year and the amount of study required, there will be times when school work will take priority over household chores. Avoid nit-picking about minor things (e.g., turning off lights, picking up socks) and don’t take ‘explosions’ of anger personally, as this is quite a normal symptom of stress in adolescence. That said, the HSC is not a free license for your teenager to be nasty to others in the household or completely neglect their other responsibilities. After all, it is important to teach your child real-world expectations: we don’t get permission to be nasty to others and completely neglect our responsibilities when we’re busy or stressed. Keep in mind as well that if you’re too lenient you’ll inadvertently put more pressure on your child because your lenience may be interpreted as “Don’t worry about your normal responsibilities. The HSC is an incredibly important year and it will determine the rest of your life so study needs to take priority over and above everything else”

Tip #6: Look After Yourself!

Remember we are the best support to others when we look after ourselves. Maintain your sanity by keeping up your own interests and hobbies, getting support from family and friends, and trying as best as you can to keep things in perspective.

Best of luck and rest assured it will all be over soon!

Brittany is a clinical psychologist registrar who completed her postgraduate clinical training at the University of New South Wales. She is interested in anxiety and mood disorders across the lifespan and uses cognitive-behavioural and other evidence-based strategies to help people achieve positive change in their lives.