Five tips for parents of new Year 12s

The thought of your child heading off to their last first day of school is probably both daunting and exciting. While the days of paying tuition fees, buying stationery and doing school runs are soon to be a thing of the past, you're now faced with the prospect of Year 12 exams, university applications and ATAR/OP scores.

You've probably heard some of the horror stories from friends about getting through Year 12 as a parent, but the upside is that this is also a time for teenagers to develop a sense of independence and maturity hopefully emerging at the end ready to tackle the next stage of their life. To help make the months ahead as smooth as possible, read through our tips for approaching your child's final year at school.

1. Support them and provide assistance when needed

Being supportive of your child, without becoming overbearing, is important. Even little things like bringing them a snack or a cup of tea, or helping them study using flash cards, show that you are there for them and understand the stress they are facing. It's also important to ensure they have a quiet place to study (free from distractions like younger siblings) and are eating well, and a good night's sleep and some light exercise should be encouraged.

2. Avoid adding to their stress

Most senior students are already stressed enough without facing added pressure at home. Try to be positive and encouraging, and resist the urge to ˜nag' about a messy room or an un-made bed. It's also important that you don't put pressure on them by setting unrealistic expectations tertiary study isn't for everyone and chances are they won't follow the same path as older siblings or yourself. Be realistic as to what your child can achieve and ensure they know that as long as they do their best, that's all you can ask.

3. Have a little faith in them

As your child prepares to move into the ˜real world', it's important that they are properly equipped with the skills they'll need for tertiary study or the workplace. Senior schooling is their chance to take responsibility for their studies, learn to manage their time properly and ultimately, become an adult. This means that it's up to them to make sure they keep up to date with assessments and get the marks they need to pursue further study. Once they're at uni or in the workforce, you won't be able to keep an eye on their schedule. And although encouraging your child to do well certainly does no harm, there is a fine line between healthy encouragement and pushing too hard. Banning them from social activities, for instance, only adds to their stress and in fact, catching up with friends provides a welcome break from assessment.

4. Support them through their study and career decisions

The start of senior schooling also marks the time to start planning life after school. This means deciding between further study or heading straight to the workforce. If they are continuing onto tertiary education, they need to consider what field of study they might be interested in studying; whether they want to study at a TAFE institute, private college or university; and where they would like to study, which might be around the corner from home or even interstate. While some students may be able to answer these questions immediately, others will still be unsure about their plans for the future. There's no need to stress if your child is undecided at this stage, as there is still plenty of time to make these decisions. Make an effort to attend open days at institutions of interest and encourage them to talk to people in careers or courses they are considering (relatives and friends of the family are particularly useful here!).

5. Think about what works best for your child

The most important thing to keep in mind is that every child is different. Some may need reminding of the importance of Year 12, while others will need the complete opposite a reminder that life doesn't end if you don't get the score you wanted. Similarly, some students will need a little push to study; others will need a reminder to take a break. If you're not sure of the best way to support your child or what you can do to help, just ask them.

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