How do you support your teens through Year 12 exams? 17 parents weigh in.

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Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend about the most challenging stages of parenting. 

You see, I'm currently navigating the primary school years, and while there is so much joy in these years (they are so cute), there are also many challenging moments (they are so cheeky).

My friend had her kids much younger than I did, so her knowledge of the challenging parenting stages is broader than mine. 

She shared that the teenage years can be quite tough (I was hoping for a bit of a break then). Her eldest is currently in Year 12, and she finds parenting him right now both amazing (as he's a beautiful young man) and very intense. 

She said that he needs her more now than he has in years, especially with Year 12 exams approaching. He often feels anxious about his studies and needs someone to talk to and unload on after long days at school, as well as someone to prepare him lots of good food.

So, I asked other parents for advice on how they supported (or are currently navigating) their teens through the pressures of their final high school year and exams.

Here's what 17 of them had to say. 


The youngest of my five is in her final high school year now. I quiz her using her study notes, some additional questions, and some old exams I found online. I encourage her to play revision videos on YouTube while she does other things, so she hears the information. 


I also provide a steady supply of food she likes or can look forward to. But mostly, I keep reminding her that it doesn't matter that much in the grand scheme of things.


I have seven kids, and I'm up to number four this year with the HSC, and I'm also a teacher. So, what did I do with the others (and now with this one)? I raised them to understand that this is a one-off standardised test taken on one day in a big life, and it is not the be-all and end-all of anything.

I encouraged them to do their best, so they had more options, but I explained that there is a back door to everything even if their marks aren't great. Life is full of twists and turns. I made sure they regularly ate good food, I let them exhale and debrief, and I loved them wholeheartedly while also carrying on with life.


I took my daughter to a psychologist. The stress overwhelmed her, and I knew she needed support. So, we had fortnightly appointments from June until early December. It helped her a lot.


We set up a study schedule together. My daughter thrives in routine, but finds it hard to implement alone. 

So, we worked out a day-to-day plan for her study sessions, her dance classes, and other commitments. We also included family time, moments with her girlfriends, and daily exercise. This approach helped so much.


My son and I have been working together at the table each night, and it's been great.


I run my own business and always have plenty of work to catch up on at night. So, after my son gets home from school or soccer training, we have dinner as a family, and then we set ourselves up at the table and work side by side for a couple of hours each night. 

This prevents him from being tempted to look at his phone or social media, and it allows us to chat. Plus, he can ask me for help when he needs it.


My son completed his HSC last year, and I discussed all the options with him to help him get into the field he wanted to study. 

I wanted him to understand that this wasn't the be-all and end-all, even if he struggled with the HSC. There were still pathways to get into further education, and there were plenty of other fulfilling life paths available.

Whenever he felt really anxious, we would revisit this conversation to help with his overwhelm and racing thoughts.


My youngest completed hers two years ago, and wow, it was a tough year.

She had some additional learning needs and required a lot of hands-on support. One thing we began doing was going for a walk each evening after dinner – my husband, me, and my daughter. 

It was a pleasant respite from the stress. Sometimes we'd talk, sometimes we'd simply walk in silence, but it definitely made a difference.


For my daughter, I laminated all her notes (because apparently that makes a difference), tested her when she asked us to, and let her put her notes all over the house, including in the shower and on the kitchen cupboards.



Being available to talk was crucial. My son would suddenly become really chatty and open at 11pm when I was ready to fall into bed. 

Staying up with him made me very tired, but I don't regret a moment of those conversations. I also feel like we spent a whole year making chocolate brownies together, it was wonderful. 


I asked my son what he needed me to do to help him. He mentioned two things, always having good food for him to easily eat, for example leftovers, and backing off about the state of his room. So, we allowed him to be in his room, and I cleaned it every few weeks.


This is from the perspective of a relatively young person (although not really that young anymore). My parents always made sure I got outside at some point during the days of endless study. 

Even a 10 minute walk around the block with the family and our dog helped so much.


I had joined a gym and offered my daughter to join with me. We both had a lovely four months of early rises and early morning chats. It helped clear her head. These are such precious memories.


Quizzes. I quizzed my son daily about everything, and he said it helped him a lot.


I quickly learned to let things go a bit more. My daughter would come home from school stressed and cranky, she wasn't being rude to us, but was not very pleasant either. 


Initially, my husband and I would react and call her out for her behaviour, but I realised after a few of these interactions that we needed to let things go; she was just stressed. Sure enough, when exams were over, we got our kind, pleasant girl back.


I tell my kids they're amazing and doing well. I remind them that this is a completion of something and there is so much more after. I also keep easy good food around, and remind them to sleep.


We tried to keep the house relatively quiet and give her space by keeping the small kids away from her. We provided plenty of food, encouraged exercise, bought her new pens and stationery, and tried to support her in planning and structuring her time well.


I helped my daughter type up all her study notes. It was basic, but it helped her so much. 

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*Kell G, Rao A, Beccaria G et al. Affron (2017)

*Lopresti AL, Drummond PD, Inarejos-Garcia AM et al. Affron (2018)

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Feature Image: Getty/Mamamia. 

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