How to help teenagers cope with HSC stress

The teenage years can be the trickiest ones for parents to navigate, especially when your son or daughter enters the difficult HSC year. North Shore Mums member Sarah Carman, founder of the study-aid YouTube channel Sponge TV, shares her top 5 helpful tips to cope. 

Through my work with teenagers, many of whom put themselves under considerable pressure to perform academically, I have seen that solid support networks are hugely beneficial to stressed-out students.

But when your child is under serious pressure to succeed in exams, it can be hard to know what to do.

In my experience, parents can do a lot to support their kids. The following are recommendations for parents of high school students, aimed at helping teens flourish without hindering their capabilities.

1. Let your child guide you!

It can be tempting for parents to offer limitless advice and guidance to teenagers, given the differences in life experience. However, if a teenager is experiencing pressure and doesn’t know how to deal with it, there is something to be said for letting them wade through it on their own (to a degree). In some cases, you will be much more helpful as a sounding board than you will be as a purveyor of instruction and recommendation. If a student is feeling the pinch and a parent tells them “just go for a walk, it works for me!” this can feel like glossing over the core issue and can leave students feeling like they haven’t been heard.

2. Encourage students to notice and appreciate their strengths

Education is all about improvement, so we often forget to stop and appreciate all that has been learnt. When a test comes back and students have made mistakes, of course there should be an effort made to go through what was answered incorrectly. However, there is a need to acknowledge what has been understood, and to commend that! Students also have strengths in different areas, many of which are not explicitly tested through examinations.

3. Remain calm

Being calm is one of the best things parents can do to help their kids aim high without succumbing to pressure. If you are measured and relaxed in your reaction to minor inconveniences and setbacks, you child will see that and incorporate it into their own stress-management repertoire.

4. Talk to your child about things other than school!

Human beings are multi-faceted creatures, and if a student is only being asked about one aspect of their life, it is natural that they will start to view it as more important than other areas.

5. Be honest

Don’t present a filtered version of yourself to your child so that they develop without making errors and mistakes. Explain to them what went wrong for you as a younger person. Show them that it is normal to have setbacks. If a student understands that there is nothing to be afraid of when it comes to failure, they will put more energy into aiming high, and less into worrying about not achieving their goal.

Sarah Carman is studying secondary school teaching and is the founder of the YouTube channel SpongeTV which is the home of helpful study tips and tricks for students.

Sarah Carman is a passionate tutor, science writer, blogger, presenter and health advocate. Sarah is the founder of Sponge, a tuition school in Sydney that helps Higher School Certificate (HSC) students to understand difficult subjects, enjoy learning, ace exams, and maintain balance. She has written for ABC Radio National, The Royal Institution (RiAus) and CSIRO children’s magazines.

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