Helping your teen through exam time doesn’t have to be a mine field of walking on egg shells and tip toeing around. It’s about being practical and helping them identify their own responses and showing them how to address these issues. Ensure you’re not adding pressure by setting unrealistic expectations or standards on them, and they’re not doing the same to themselves. Their lives, their choices, their consequences.
Some students will mask their stress and anxiety with a complete shut down of “I don’t care” and take themselves out of the game by just not trying, or taking part. Making out they don’t care about their grades (if a child in senior is doing this either they’re doing the wrong subjects or they’re not equipped to cope with real world stressors’ or aren’t worried about the future which is another topic for another time).
Some will take on board every little thing and react with either emotional or angry outbursts or both!
Some aren’t academic and may or may not stress over upcoming exam times by getting depressed at their perceived lack of achievement.
Some kids will breeze through exam time, knowing they’ve done the hard work and their best is all they can do (for this group, a huge kudos to you as parents for teaching them these amazing life skills).
Stress is a natural response. It’s a healthy response. It can motivate, drive and keep you focused. But there comes a point where too much stress turns to anxiety and causes mental health and/or physical issues. Everyone’s stress levels differ. Help your teen identify when they’re moving into unhealthy stressing and give them some coping mechanisms such as the one’s listed below. If it gets too bad it may be time for some professional intervention such as school guidance counsellor, seeing a psychologist through a GP Allied Health Plan or Headspace etc or helping them learn meditation and breathing exercises.
You can check in with them regularly – not when they’re studying but on the drive to school, at breakfast or dinner time – it’s important during exam times to have family meal times – no devices, no study notes, no headphones, just family time to offload, talk things through, to keep a bit of normality in their lives.
You can give them their space. Ensure they have a quiet, suitable study place in the home where younger siblings will leave them alone and they can concentrate.
Spoil them: My grade 11 daughter has her study desk in her bedroom which at the start of study period I plaster with positive and encouraging post-it notes for her, reminders to take a break, breathe and hydrate etc. I also stock it with bananas, fruit and nut mixes and her favourite chocolates – Lindt.
If they’re working part time help them to manage this with study and deadline expectations. For student’s going for university entry scores now is not the time to be getting as many hours at work as possible, now is the time to prioritise study. Teach them how to liaise with their boss to get required time off. Short term losses for long term gains. It’s also a great life lesson to teach them.
One of the greatest skills teenagers can learn is time management. Teach them how to prioritise tasks can help reduce stress and help them feel more in control. Having assessment pieces handed in prior to due dates teaches them not to leave things to the last minute, reducing a lot of stress. It also then clears them up to focus on exams.
Teach them all the tricks you learnt or if you weren’t very academic or scholarly ask someone you know who was, for their top tips. As someone with 3 degrees, mine are:
- If you can’t explain something in under 3 sentences, you don’t understand it well enough. Study to understand, not remember.
Remember, if stress gets beyond the normal, seek professional counselling and services.
Good luck seniors, school holidays are so close.
Good luck parents, empty nest is far too close now (and that’s a whole other article).
With Christmas and Graduations just around the corner, get in early and pick up some of our last remaining copies of Beyond School: Practical Tips for Teens which is 16 chapters of tips to help your teens navigate the real world. Pick up a copy for just $10 HERE
Senior school subject selection is going on in a lot of homes across Australia at the moment. My miss 15 is in grade 10 and it’s that time of her school life. Is it causing your child anguish? You? I hope not.
Almost all of their schooling lives I’ve let the kids decide what THEY want to study and what extra-curricular activities they take part in (within reason otherwise Mr 9 would be doing 10 sports a week!). Senior school subject selection is no different. It’s her choice. And just as with anything choices bring consequences – good, bad and indifferent.
Education is very important in our home, because I know it gives options and opportunities. My main aim with their education has been to get them to a point where at the end of grade 12 they have a variety of choices and are not limited in what they want to do because of grades. We reward effort as much as grades because effort is what gets you places in life. Grades are what open doors. Other pathways offer different doors. I want my kids to have as many doors open to them as possible so THEY can choose – uni, tafe, workforce or a combination. But at least they’ll have choices.
This is where Senior subject selection comes in. Making the right choices and by right I mean the choices that help them reach their goals but also bring joy and fun along the way. One of my favourite quotes:
“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, LOVE of what you are doing or learning to do”
Pele (Famous soccer player)
Now, having said that there are a myriad of ways to achieve their career paths these days and for kids who want a profession they’ll need university. However, even university has options these days. Currently Miss 15 is wanting to do be a Doctor of Medicine in the Army. Medicine these days is not dependent on an OP 1, although it helps. There are options but there are also pre-requisites which must be met.
For kids who want to work in a trade, child care, hospitality etc etc etc there are apprenticeships, traineeships, TAFE and trade schools. Just so many options.
Then there are those kids who will want to go straight into work. So many options there too – private sector, public service etc etc etc.
In my book, Beyond School: Practical Tips for Teens there’s a chapter titled To Study or work, or both? In this chapter I talk about encouraging your kids to find their passions early on and try to make a career from that or with elements of it. Not every furniture making super star will want to be a carpenter, but it sure is a good place to start.
So as you navigate these next few weeks encourage your kids to look at what they enjoy and what they’d like to spend their lives doing. Have them look at what they’re naturally good at – a great starting point for career decisions. Remind them that if they change their mind in two years time that’s okay, just as it is if they change their minds in 10 or 15 years time. Very few people stay with the same careers or jobs their whole working lives these days. You can change your mind at any time. You’re not a tree, you can uproot yourself and move and change jobs and careers. There are many many options and pathways to your chosen careers and jobs these days. But as always do your homework and know what they are. If going to Uni know what prerequisites are required. If going to TAFE know what is required. If going straight into the work force look for work experience in areas that enhance their employability.
I’ll leave you with the advice I gave my Miss 15:
“Choose the subjects you NEED to do,
then make the rest of your subjects ones that are fun for you”
So now she’s busy working out what she really needs and it seems although she needs Chemistry for some Universities, there is the option to do it as a 4 week course at the end of grade 11 or 12, and have that counted. Meaning she can do her beloved Drama class for senior years. Everyone wins. There are options. Dare to dream kids, the world is your oyster. What options are you giving yourself?
Have a great week and happy subject selecting. Would love to know what your grade 10’ers are currently considering for their future selves (how many of us actually ended up doing what we initially set out to do..very few I imagine, and such is the fun and adventurous rollercoaster that is life).
You can pick up a copy of my hard copy book here