Sunday, July 2, 2017

Taking a breath in the midst of year 12

I have few memories of year 12 now - it was in 1992. However. one photo sticks in my mind. It was the one of me sitting outside my parents' caravan in Merimbula doing a bit of holiday homework. Fortunately I was looking quite fashionable in my checked pants, green vest over a white skivvy and a bowler hat on. (Let's just say it was a very short-lived fashion trend).

I remember having one meltdown that year. It was over a maths task that involved computers and x and y coordinates. I had a meltdown and then I got on with it. I finished year 12, went to Uni and then became a waitress. True story!!!!

So much has changed in 25 years. I don't know whether the term 'meltdown' was even used in relation to year 12 back then. Nowadays, if your upper high school student hasn't had a meltdown, then you are in the minority.

So here we are in the July school holidays. Your year 12 offspring may not be physically attending school for two weeks - but where is their head at? Can I ask that this school holidays you take some time out to 'hang out' with your high school students. Go to THEIR favourite cafe, let them order whatever they want (without making any remark about the health benefits of their choices) and ask them how they are feeling. Give your teenager time to debrief. Don't correct their misconceptions, don't argue with them. JUST LISTEN. 

Allow them to tell you about how annoying it is when their sister plays the Ukulele after dinner when they are trying to study. Let them vent about the frustration of Dad mowing the lawn under their window at 10 a.m. on a Saturday. JUST LISTEN. 

Ask them how they are feeling about school. How are they feeling about their work? Is there anything they are worried about at the moment? What are they scared of? Excited about? 

Having let your teenager 'download', ask them how you can best support them, Their requests may seem unreasonable or over the top, but just listen and see what small steps you can take to help them. Maybe it is enforcing an hour of quiet time every afternoon in the household to give them quiet study space. Maybe it is taking the younger siblings out to a park on Saturday mornings for a time.

Understand that although you didn't find year 12 stressful when you went through it, the landscape has changed dramatically in the last 30 years. Your kids are facing stressors they we may not have faced until our mid-20's - if at all.
Also be aware of your teenager's mental health. As one who was diagnosed with depression shortly after year 12, I am well aware of the impact sustained stress can have upon a young person. If you have any concerns, take your teenager along to the GP and have a chat.

Although everyone around them gives the impression that year 12 is the decider for their ENTIRE actually isn't! There are so many options out there for future study and work that do not rely upon an incredible ATAR to pursue. It is also important to remember that your teenager will more than likely retrain and pursue a number of career options throughout their lifetime. Year 12 is not their 'only shot' at a great future. Remind them of this as often as you need to.

Finally - parents RELAX. You getting all upset and stressed on your child's behalf is not going to help them. You need to be there with the hot chocolate and marshmallows, the Friday night pizza, the family trip to Mini Golf. You need to be the calm in the storm. Will you do that for your teenager?


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