LIFE

Practical Tips For Parents To Support Their Child During Exams

Because there's life after Year 12.

15/10/2016 1:49 PM AEDT | Updated 15/10/2016 1:50 PM AEDT
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There's a dirty little secret about the year 12 exams, a secret only those who've lived through them know. It goes something like this: they don't define you, and they certainly don't define the life that's waiting for you afterwards.

It's a message youth mental health organisation ReachOut have been driving with their national campaign, "There's Life After Year 12 Exams" designed to help students manage stress and anxiety during the exam period.

"Exams are pretty stressful at the best of times, but they can be really overwhelming if you feel your whole life depends on the results," Jono Nicholas, ReachOut CEO told The Huffington Post Australia.

Now in its second year, as well as support for the students themselves, ReachOut has extended support to parents of year 12 students.

"The subtle culture pressures that exists around this time not only affects students but parents, too," Nicholas said.

From the economic pressure that comes with sending your child to a private or selective school to the helicopter parent conundrum whereby a parent feels judged based on their child's performance.

"The first thing that will happen in January is the newspapers will have a league table of schools and who got the best results," Nicholas said.

Nicholas explains all of this goes against the message of "try as hard as you can and life will sort itself out."

"For us, it's about reminding parents that there are practical things they can do to support their child through the exam period and also to let them know that if you've got a young person that's saying they are really stressed or anxious, don't take that lightly," Nicholas said.

Check in with your child

Ask them how stressed they are. "An easy way would be to ask your child to rate how stressed they are on a scale of zero to 10 -- where zero is a disaster and it couldn't get any worse -- through to 10, where they are feeling awesome and aren't stressed at all," Nicholas said. If it's below a seven, Nicholas said it's worth thinking about what you can do to provide added support.

Create a structured calendar

"Parents can sometimes jump in prematurely, assuming everything could go wrong but in many cases your child might just need some space," Nicholas said. A simple way to provide support without intruding would be to engage in the exam planning process with a calendar. "It should include both the exams coming up but also fun activities, sleeping and study breaks," Nicholas said.

Build in mini celebrations

"For students, the exam period can feel like one major stress rather than a series of small things that can be easily overcome," Nicholas said. To break it down and also provide a sense of achievement along the way, Nicholas said parents can mark the end of one exam by going out for dinner or an evening where they get to choose what's on Netflix. "Parents can really help in breaking down that big stress into manageable stress and at the same time, provide balance."

Provide additional tools

"By and large we hear from young people they want tools that make their life a little bit better," Nicholas said. Sometimes your teenager might not want to talk, but there are other ways you can support them. "A great tool we've developed is the ReachOut Breath app, which helps with stress and anxiety by providing breathing exercises," Nicholas said.

For more information head to parents.au.reachout.com.

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