Your adolescent is in their final two years of Secondary School and boy do these last two years seem to count for a lot.
It’s important to recognise that Year 11 and 12 can be one of the most stressful times of the schooling period for many adolescents, however, every student has their own set of expectations, beliefs, attitudes, and circumstances around their final years, which can shape their motivation and experiences of VCE/HSC.
Each student also brings with them their own repertoire of coping skills around managing this stressful period. As a parent, it can be helpful to have a look at what resources and coping skills your adolescent has in their tool box, but also how the family unit around them can help support positive coping.
Wondering how you can help your teen work through these final years?
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Here’s our top 3 do’s and don’ts in how family members can support their adolescent to cope through exam stress, late night cramming, and high anxiety times.
1. Check it out
When you see your adolescent under stress, you may see them feeling or acting a range of different ways, including appearing irritable, teary, over-focused, angry, sensitive, anxious, or avoidant. Show your support by acknowledging their feelings or behaviours.
This also helps them tune into their own emotions and have an opportunity to do something about it, especially if they were not even aware that they were feeling that way. Check in by saying “you seem like something is upsetting you, is there anything I can do to help out?”
2. Clear the space
Help to create a study space that is free of clutter and can be a quiet area for study. If time is tight and busy for households, consider getting a cleaner into the house for a few weeks to help tidy up the environment.
A tidy space does wonders for helping us feel more organised and controlled inside.
3. Mind what you eat
Healthy and nutritious meals for the entire household can be helpful to keep blood sugar levels balanced, and help provide important nutrients to your teens brain to help focus and memory consolidation. Think lots of grains, leafy greens, fish, fruits and proteins.
1. Don’t underestimate the benefit of exercise to help expend nervous energy in the body.
This can help calm down your adolescent’s brain so that they can use their ‘smart’ part of their brains. When an individual is too stressed or anxious their emotions actually impede their ability to access all of the good thinking parts of their brains and can interfere with clear critical thinking, memory and problem solving skills.
So, encourage your teen to take a break and go for a walk, go play basketball, or arrange to go and do something active as a family to get the blood pumping and the stress levels down again.
2. Don’t focus on the behaviour that may indicate your adolescent is mega stressed out.
If you say things such as “what’s wrong with you?” or “don’t speak to me like that!”, or “why are you so cranky?” you are more likely going to get an inflamed and reactive response that may only escalate things.
Instead, if you are noticing your adolescents behaviours are more irritable, snappy, stressed or sensitive than usual, try doing some of your own detective thinking and reflect on what feelings or situations may be underlying their behaviours. Are they managing their calendar of tasks?
Checking it out with curiosity rather than blame and accusations can help you all work together to manage those highly emotional moments. Let them know you are here to help. But of course, you setting limits around their behaviour is important too.
3. Don’t ignore sleep issues.
Sleep is such an important factor in helping us learn and retain information. Sleep actually helps our brains consolidate the days learnings and store the important bits into our memory, so don’t allow your teen to skimp on sleep in order to do those late night cramming sessions.
Adolescents need about 8-10 hours sleep per night (varies with each individual), so help set some good sleep hygiene practices by turning off electronics an hour before bed, stop study at least one hour before bed so your teens’ brain can down regulate and relax, dim the lights around the house and take a look at the emotional environment around bedtime – slow down activities, come together as a family, put on some relaxing music in the background, or encourage some reading time for families before bed.
If unfinished study is making your adolescent fret, help create a study plan to help manage time more effectively.
The HSC is a stressful time in everyone’s life so it’s really important to remind all those involved, that it can be tackled as a unit, and is not something your teen has to do alone.
Have you got a young one going through the HSC this year? Share with us in the comments.