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?

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.

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  • All 3 of my kids have been there and done that.
    Im glad we dont have to worry about those school years.


  • I took a day off in year 11 (maybe 12) and went shopping with a friend. I told one of my teachers when she asked where I was the day before. She said that it was a great thing as we all need a mental health day, especially in the stressful years of schooling. It’s important to listen to your teens on this though, a day off may seem what they needs, but it may just make them feel more stressed and add more time pressure.


  • All great…….except remote learning with covid threw an almighty spanner in the works. My year eleven has almost given up on this year. Luckily we have been able to get her to focus on goals and a plan for next year.


  • Some great tips.My kids are still small.


  • I’m so glad that my boys have already finished schooling. I had one that found it so easy to study and my other son just couldn’t get into it. Even though they both tackled it differently they both coped which I’m thankful for. It’s a difficult time for them


  • Thanks for the advice made all the more important with this year’s lockdown and lack of face to face schooling. Do hope all the children survive this and come out the other side better people.


  • No teens here but I thinks these are great tips. Especially with the school from home for a lot of kids this year.


  • My son completed Year 12 a couple of years ago now and we made many allowances on his time and provided as much support as he needed to maintain calm throughout.


  • The best of these tips to me is not to focus on the behaviour that may indicate your adolescent is mega stressed out. Showing understanding and empathy and pamper them a bit extra during this time is a must I think.

    • Luckily mine are not too stressed :)


  • Very useful tips here, great article!


  • I have a teen son in Term 4 of Year 11 and it has absolutely been a rollercoaster year. He describes it as the worst year ever. He has many support structures to help, and we continue tow ork things as they occur. He has also had added stress of a best friend diagnosed with aplastic anaemia week 2 of the year and this has impacted his entire year.


  • Food, space and sleep are most definitely good tips for the HSC and for every day living too – all are essential to be healthy and in a good mental space and assist with managing pressure and stress.


  • I am just sitting here putting my fingers in my ear and singing out loud. I cannot stand the thought of teens yet! Not yet!


  • Great tips here but thankfully, a while till I go through this with my kids


  • Some pupils struggle with studying before years 11 or 12. If your teen genuinely has sleeping problems seek advice, don’t just think it will solve itself. It may mean taking Melatonin (or something similar), very often recommended by medical professionals, including physcologists. They are not the ones that prescribe medications routinely.(It is physciatrists that do that) Melatonin is a natural product, not a drug as such and is not addictive at all. Our own bodies don’t always produce enough on their own.


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