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8 tips to helping your kids manage HSC stress

The Higher School Certificate is nearing, and for many Year 12 students this can be a very stressful period of time, with a major component of this stress coming from internal (psychological) pressure. Stress management tips are vital for teenagers to reduce psychological distress.

Having to sit the HSC can add to any pre-existing stress that students may have already had, but it’s important to remember that feeling stressed during this time is normal. 

They might be worried about study disruptions, routine changes, financial stability, exam format and so forth. These stressors can often add up to a frustrating HSC experience. While stress can lead to increased productivity, too much stress can lead to poor exams and emotional well-being if not managed appropriately.

8 tips for managing HSC stress

Let’s cover some helpful tips for your kids or for anyone who wants to support an HSC student through this high-stress time.

1. Set boundaries around learning

With most year 12 students used to spending six or more hours a day at school, maintaining a similar hybrid routine is crucial. However, it is important to be wary of screen time as an excess amount can make their eyes sore and impact their ability to fall asleep at night. Help them break up their days and make sure that they take proper lunch breaks outdoors or with the family.

2. Set up a study group

You would be surprised at how effective in-person study groups can be – and there’s always the option to conduct them online too via Zoom, Google Meets, or other online platforms. However, the key to effective group study is structure. Setting a short time aside for chit-chats and catch ups will help to increase study time and reduce the risk of unproductive learning. Ensure that everyone in the group sticks to the study plan. An example of a group study plan may look like the following:

  • First 10 minutes: catch ups!
  • 10 minutes: clarify subject/topic that the group/group members will be studying
  • 45-50 minutes: silent study
  • 5 minutes: stretch!
  • 10-15 minutes: each member asks questions to the group about the topic

3. Make sure they check in with themselves

Stress relating to exam preparation is overwhelming and can cause worry or anxiety, and may interfere with their concentration to study. Ensuring your students or kids check in with themselves and reflect on their feelings may help with identifying what they need at the time. They may even find it helpful to draw on skills that they’ve used in the past to cope with uncertainty. A ‘toolbox’ of skills may include:

  • Practising self-care activities
  • Journalling things they’re grateful for
  • Getting out for some fresh air
  • Focusing on things within their control, and working with that
  • Practising positive self-talk
  • Phoning/video-chatting with a friend/loved one to check in
  • Allowing themselves to take a break from things bothering them (this might even include limiting social media or news that can be distressing)

4. Provide emotional support

The HSC is a challenging time for students, and they may experience a range of emotions, such as stress, anxiety, and fear. As a parent, it’s essential to provide emotional support, listen to their concerns, encourage them to share their feelings, and offer words of comfort and reassurance.

5. Encourage and motivate them

Encouraging your child to stay motivated and positive is very important. Praise them for their hard work and remind them that they can do it; it means more to them than you might realise.

6. Create a supportive environment

Providing a quiet and comfortable study space for your child at home will make them feel supported in their study goals. Minimise distractions—such as noise from the TV or other family members—and try to maintain a peaceful and stress-free environment at home.

7. Stay Involved

Staying involved in your child’s preparation for the HSC, even when they might say that they don’t want you to, is important. Ask them about their progress, attend parent-teacher meetings, stay informed about important dates and deadlines, and offer to help them in any way you can. This will show them that you’re interested in their studies and make them feel even more supported in times of stress.

8. Seek professional support when needed

Going through the HSC can feel overwhelming, even if they’ve been practising your self-care skills. Seeking professional help through telehealth or face-to-face are both available options to help support kids through exam time.

Consider speaking to your GP or reach out to our friendly psychologists at Mind Matters for extra help.

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