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Being there for your Year 12 student

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Five tips to help Year 12s complete the year

It’s been another tough year for Year 12 students. Their resilience and determination is incredibly inspiring. We know many of our clients have been trying to navigate these ups and downs with their children, with our own Brad Fox living it out with his son this year. So we asked Brad if he could share some insights from tackling these challenges as a family, including his top tips on how to help a Year 12 student in the lead up to their exams and beyond.

It’s not ATAR or nothing

In doing the rounds of the universities with my son, one of the interesting things that came out of it was that up to sixty percent of first year students don’t come through the ATAR pathway.

Of course the ATAR score is important, but it’s also important to put it into perspective that it’s not the be all or end all. There’s always alternatives. But unfortunately so much emphasis is placed on the ATAR that it can be overwhelming for the student.

Instead, maybe focus more on supporting good learning habits, a growth mindset (Carol Dweck is the guru in this), flexibility and agility in their thinking.

All the things that aren’t necessarily measured in an ATAR score.

Half their jobs don’t exist yet

One of the other big stresses placed on a Year 12 is course selection. Again, I’m not saying this isn’t important, but when you consider that half the jobs our kids will work in don’t even exist yet, no wonder it’s hard for them to focus on their future.

It’s unrealistic to expect that they will know for certain what direction they want to go in, especially with technology and sociological change altering careers like never before. And who knows what workplaces and the job market will look like post-COVID.

My son and I were told by one of the admissions staff that over 40% of students change courses during their time at university. So it’s OK not to be 100% sure of their decision at this stage, and if they change their mind once they’ve started that’s fine also. For them to know that you support them in this way can release a lot of pressure.

With so much uncertainty facing students at the moment, my advice is to have them focus on the things they can control right now and make them feel supported and reassured.

Release the pressure

If I put my work hat on, the first rule in customer or client satisfaction is to ask them what they want. So that’s the first thing I’d do with your Year 12. Rather than trying to enforce on them the best way to ease the pressure they are no doubt feeling, simply ask them what is the best way that you can support them.

“There’s 10 weeks left until exams. What can we do as a household to make it easier for you?”

It could be things like:

  • if they do chores around the house, tell them they’re off the hook for a certain amount of weeks/days leading up to exams
  • Let them know that when they’re in a study phase, we’ll keep the house quiet and not disturb or call on you at those times
  • If they respond well to incentives, ask them if they’d like you to come up with some suggestions related to achieving a goal or study habits – that could be money/vouchers, schoolies-related, contribution to their car, travel or even the start of an investment
  • When schooling at home, if they’re getting bored or unmotivated from being stuck in their bedroom or the same part of the house all day, do your best at creating separate study areas within the home so they can move around for some fresh enthusiasm

And remember. Year 12 is a pressure cooker at the best of times. With COVID adding another layer; listening, not judging and just being there is one of the best things we can do.

Protect and support their wellbeing

In the same way as trying to release the pressure, talk to your child (or adult in some cases) about considering each aspect of their own wellbeing and what help they would like from you. This can be hard because what you think is best to focus on might not be what’s best for them.

So if it’s sleep, be conscious of noise and making the home as peaceful as possible – this will need everyone in the household to be onboard.

Exercise can be a difficult one, because if they are struggling to get active our natural impulse is to force them to get up and about. But this might have the opposite effect. An activity to give them a short study break could simply be asking them to help you for five minutes around the house, maybe in the garden or to move something. And before they know it, they’ve started playing with the pet, or picked up a ball, or decided to go for a walk in the sun.   

If they respond to mindfulness, technology can be a great help through apps, audiobooks, etc to create more opportunities for them to relax the mind.

For many, missing out on the social aspect of Year 12 can impact their energy and mood so if this is important to them, look for ways to make it easier to connect with friends. If they like gaming, maybe loosen the restrictions a bit on how often they can play. Of course you’ll need to monitor this, but the excitement and sense of togetherness this brings can offer a healthy boost to their state of mind when they can’t meet up face to face.

On the flip side, they might be someone who craves their own company, which can be difficult in lockdown with everybody sharing the home with them all day. Being conscious of this and respecting their need for space is another way you can support their wellbeing.

Offer unconditional love

It’s as simple as that.

As parents and carers, it’s hard not to put our own expectations onto our children. But completing Year 12 should be all about doing it for themselves and their life, not yours. We need to remember and respect that, especially when they have faced unparalleled challenges and restrictions.

Their ATAR score does not define them. It’s a moment in time. It’s what comes after their score and how they respond to it that will shape their future.

So let your child know that whatever happens this year, you love them unconditionally and are proud of them. I think that’s so important and powerful for them to be comforted by in the lead up to their exams.

To know that you’ve got their back regardless of the final result.

A client’s perspective

Neil Shewan has been a long-time Tribeca client. His daughter completed Year 12 in 2020 and we asked Neil to share some thoughts from this experience:

The social side of Year 12 is really important. They are becoming adults, and due to COVID are missing out on all those experiences. So for us we put a focus on making sure Emily still enjoyed that social side with friends; that it wasn’t all about study.

A lot of our attention was just supporting Emily to get through the year. To not worry about the ATAR score, as there’s so many different pathways you can take. The score won’t limit you. Like many Year 12s, Emily wasn’t clear on the career direction she wanted to take so we put the emphasis on simply doing her best, and the rest will take care of itself.

And remind your Year 12 that they are not alone. This is a once in a 100 year event and that everybody is on this journey together. Some are coping better, some the same, and some worse. The big message is to support one another.

The overall wellbeing of our clients is very important to us, and we’re always ready to chat. If there’s anything you would like to discuss please feel free to talk to you advisor at any time or contact one our Tribeca Tribe here.

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