Parents - tips to support your kids going through the HSC

Your child may feel an enormous amount of pressure about the HSC. As a parent or carer you play an important role in giving them the confidence, support and stability to cope with their final exams. Here are some ideas for supporting them.

1. Help with time management

You can use your own adult experience to help your child manage their time effectively.

The HSC may seem overwhelming to them so you can help break it down into manageable study chunks. Sit down with them and work out a realistic study schedule. A good study schedule should cater to the way your child likes to work. For instance, do they get more value studying in intense short spurts rather than a one hour block?

There should be clear goals for each block of study. Having a rewards system may help too. It’s also important to schedule relaxation and fun activities. Let your child lead it, it’s their timetable after all, and it has to work for them.

Studies show that students who use effective time management perform better academically and are less stressed.

2. Stay positive at all times

It’s important that your child doesn't feel pressured. Where possible, try and use positive language and gestures.

Use positive expressions or phrases that convey encouragement and being non-judgmental. For example, “how can I help with your study today?” This will help steer your child to the right paths through uplifting and constructive expressions and giving them control of their own situation.

Avoid using negative expressions or phrases that convey disappointment or judgment. For instance: “you’ll never pass the HSC if you don’t do more study” or “do you really think it’s a good idea to go on social media right now?”

Your child will be very sensitive to any criticism or implied criticism. They will be especially sensitive given the enormity of the exams they are facing. So ask questions that aren’t loaded with any judgement, let them know they always have your support.

3. Encourage a healthy lifestyle

A healthy lifestyle is important for many reasons. Eating and sleeping well and staying fit is beneficial for your body.

Research shows there’s a clear link between sleep and brain activity. We also know that getting a good night’s sleep is important for teenagers’ mental health and it directly influences how well students perform in their exams.

But it’s not just sleep that counts. Exercise pumps oxygen into the brain and stimulates it. Studies by the UCLA have found that exercise actually increases brain growth and development. Meanwhile, what you eat also has a big effect on the way your brain functions. And this is especially true for teenagers whose bodies are still growing.

Proteins, like meat, fish, eggs and nuts, help the brain’s performance and produce amino acids. Amino acids create the ‘happy chemicals’ in the brain which help to counter stress and anxiety. Then there are omega 3 foods, like oily fish, eggs, flax seeds and beef which help with learning and memory. Then there’s other fats like avocado, olives, canola oil and nuts which strengthen your memory and help your brain work harder. In fact, these monounsaturated fats have been found to fight off Alzherimers and help the brain stay sharp for longer.

Antioxidant foods like blueberries, raspberries, kale and cherries fight the unstable molecules in your brain that cause stress and memory loss.

You can play a really important role in your child’s HSC year by pointing them to the right foods, encouraging them to stay active and sleep well, and keeping them away from junk foods high in sugar or polyunsaturated fats.

4. Steer them from distractions

There are more distractions for kids these days than ever before. Phone time, gaming time, social media and screen time generally, are a constant presence in many children’s lives.

Phones especially can be an addictive habit. A recent study of smartphones users found that the average person checks their phones over eighty times a day. And the effects of too much screen time have negative consequences.

A recent study found that children who spent more than two hours a day on screens scored lower in language and thinking tests and even experienced thinning of the brain in some extreme cases.

Phones, computers and gaming devices are bad distractions that will make your child lose focus. You don’t have to eradicate them completely, but take them out of the study schedule and use them as rewards instead.

Get more information and advice at eSafety for parents and carers.

5. Be calm and help deal with stress

A study by the University of NSW found that 40% of HSC students were suffering from symptoms of depression or high stress or anxiety.

There’s no question that most HSC students feel very pressured. As a parent you can create a calm environment at home that will help reduce their anxiety. You can help turn their bedroom into a neat, tidy space that they feel comfortable and relaxed working in.

Meditation is another good way of overcoming stress. Perhaps you may want to investigate some meditation techniques or some meditation apps such as Headspace or Insight Timer.

Other techniques include breathing exercises which calm and dissipate stress or muscle relaxation.

Some students may like to try yoga which has been shown to reduce depression and anxiety. But, by ensuring that your child is living in a home where they feel safe, calm and protected, you will be giving them a peaceful space in which to study.

Of course, parents and carers need to look after their own wellbeing too so they can provide support from a strong base. You are, in a sense, also on this HSC journey. For more information visit the parent and carer hub for information and resources to help you help your child.

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