Parents, how to help your Year 12 student
Thriving through the final months of school
As the end of Year 12 approaches, and the end of a student’s school career, parents play a vital stabilising role. It’s an important but challenging position, which can help your young adult to survive, and even thrive, in the months ahead.
What parents can do:
First and foremost, pray for Year 12 students. Pray that they would not only do their best in exams, but that they would have an unwavering faith in the Lord Jesus, which will only become stronger over the coming years. The latter is infinitely more important than the former. As many young people turn away from faith in Jesus after school, pray that they would, by his grace, have a firm faith in Jesus.
Let them be unique
Put to one side your ATAR aspirations and career dreams for your child. God, in his sovereignty, knit our children together wonderfully well, and he gave them their abilities (Psalm 139:13-14). Your son/daughter is unique, and should not be compared with other young people or with ourselves. They have their own aspirations and methods of undertaking Year 12, and at this time parents should play a support role rather than taking the lead.
I have three recently graduated sons, and each went about Year 12 in vastly different ways.
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Having worked in education for many years, I know that there are varied paths to success, and that success looks different for each young person. I have three recently graduated sons, and each went about Year 12 in vastly different ways. Parents should provide gentle encouragement to children to be their best selves over the coming months, should offer advice and should be a wise sounding board to their child when it is welcome.
Encourage a posture of thankfulness
Be patient with your son/daughter, understanding that Year 12 is a lot of work and a substantial commitment. For them, the anticipated post-school freedom is excruciatingly close and yet so far away. They are on the cusp of their adult life. With this in mind, they will likely be experiencing a gamut of emotions, which might include anxiety, excitement, apprehension, exhaustion, confusion, stress and sadness.
Walk with them as they experience these emotions, and encourage them to adopt a posture of thankfulness. Psychological experts, such as Dr Lea Waters, tell us about the importance of being grateful. As believers in the Lord Jesus, we know that it is God who gives us each breath and every good thing, and we should, therefore, be thankful to him in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Regardless of how students are feeling emotionally, being thankful to God is the best mindset to foster.
Study/ life balance
Encourage your son/daughter to continue leisure and physical activities, within reason, as social engagement and exercise are beneficial in maintaining both mental agility and mental health. Help them to find a good balance between school life and social life.
More importantly, encourage them to keep seeking the Lord through his Word and prayer. Gently provide reminders that God is faithful and we can trust him with our lives. You might use Psalm 121:1-2, Philippians 4:6-7 and Psalm 127:1, and in light of these verses, encourage them to continue to regularly connect with believers at youth group and church.
Too little, too late?
If your son/daughter has left their run a little late in regard to exams, parents need to model to them an attitude of calm, methodical problem-solving rather than panic. Offer to sit down and, together, structure a sensible plan for the coming months to maximise success, understanding that cramming is really not an effective method of study for any student.
What parents can say:
Keeping perspective: their worth
Parents are wise to understand that while end-of-year exam results are very important, these results are just numbers and do not adequately describe the worth of a person or even their capacity.
Encourage your Year 12 children to be kind to themselves, especially after making a mistake.
In conversation, remind your young adult to keep things in perspective, reminding them that they are far more than just what is represented by numerical ATARs. They are valued and loved, and their worth cannot be quantified by mere exam results, university admissions, career advancement or income.
Therefore, encourage your Year 12 children to be kind to themselves, especially after making a mistake. Errors should be welcomed as learning experiences. Encourage them to eat well and get sufficient sleep each night, by having their phone charging in the living room so their sleep is not disturbed by notifications all night!
Study smart practices
Being organised is critically important, and making good use of a calendar during the next few months may be invaluable. Your son/daughter might like your advice or assistance with this. Additionally, setting out a plan for short-term and medium-term goals may be helpful.
Encourage your son/daughter to study smarter rather than study more. Understanding how they learn is most helpful. Revising using study cards works for some, while collaborating in discussion groups suits others better. Rather than simply revising notes, recalling information without the use of notes is more effective, as it facilitates building deeper memory of the information.
Parents and Year 12 students should not stress about post-school options, but instead research carefully by talking to a careers adviser or trusted adults. It is increasingly common for people to not only change university courses at least once but also change apprenticeships and careers several times before landing in one that is a great fit for them.
Be your child’s quiet cheer squad over the next few months. Enjoy these precious months – they may soon be off to commence their new life outside your home. Show much compassion and humour, build the relationship by being available, whether as their quiz master or snack maker. Finally, be a great ambassador for Christ to them at all times.
Jason Ward is Deputy Principal – Student Wellbeing at Trinity Christian School in Wanniassa, ACT.