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How to help your child survive the HSC

Surviving the HSC: a ‘study guide’ for parents


For many Year 12 students, the Higher School Certificate can seem like a cruel form of torture. But it need not be so agonising. Here’s how you can minimise the pain for your studying kids.

Any parent who has had a child go through the HSC will tell you it’s a tough year. The stakes are high and the pressure cooker environment can affect your child’s performance, stress them out and leave them wishing they could find a hole to crawl into. And in many cases you, the parents, experience similar levels of anxiety. So, how can you help kids do their best, and get through the year? Here are our tips:

Give them a calm, supportive environment

A freaked-out child can lead to a chaotic household, especially in the lead-up to the gruelling final exams, which are crucial for getting a university placement. Give your kid space to study and as much quiet as possible. If it’s the day before an exam, put the hammer drill away, Mr and Mrs DIY - those family photos can be hung on another day. 

Help them plan it

As the old adage goes, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Whether it’s a time management app or an old-school calendar on the fridge, or their bedroom wall, your child will benefit from creating a schedule and sticking to it. This means making time for study, family and work commitments, exercise, friends and fitting in some fun.  

Make sure they’re well fed

Snacking on greasy takeaway or sugary treats may seem like the easy option for your child, especially during the stress of exam time, but they’d be much better served by a healthy, balanced diet that’s high in fibre and rich in fruits and vegetables. Keep your kids well supplied with regular healthy meals and water. Encourage them to snack on fruit and swap the coffee for herbal tea.

Feed them well

Shuteye is key

It’s past midnight and your frazzled teenager is huddled over a weighty textbook with tired, bloodshot eyes. Yes, late night cramming sessions are sometimes necessary, and some students prefer to study late into the night. But most do best during the day, when they’re likely to feel more alert. Encourage them to get enough rest. A good night’s sleep, as well as daytime naps where possible, will help with your child’s attention, memory and learning.  

Help them to keep balanced

Encouraging your child to get out of the house can take the pressure off their hectic schedule. While many students choose to limit competitive sport and part-time work in the HSC year, it’s still vitally important to get some exercise and spend time with friends. Sport and exercise can help with academic performance, so regular physical activity is definitely important. And even the odd night out with friends can be a useful distraction.  

When the going gets tough, keep a level head 

Studying is hard work. Chances are that at one stage or another your tired, frustrated child will steam out of their bedroom and fall down in a heap. It’s a fair bet this is not the right time to be stern. It probably is the right time to tell them to step back from things for a while and take a day off. If you feel like you need to keep them honest, pick the right time to apply pressure, and give them just enough to keep them diligent without stressing them out further. 

Be supportive and take the gloves off

What’s perhaps most important for students during the HSC year is that they feel emotionally supported by their parents. If their room resembles a disaster zone, maybe try to bite your lip. If they seem more stressed than normal, ask them about it. If they’re constantly worried about study and the consequences of the year ahead, the stress and anxiety could lead to symptoms like headaches, stomach aches, a change of appetite and out-of-character aggression. Be extra tolerant. And remember, in the end the HSC is their fight, not yours.

Remind them it’s not the end of the world

It’s almost exam time and despite all their best efforts (and yours), your kid feels under-prepared and over-stressed. Explain to them that the HSC is not the be all and end all. There are other ways they can get into their dream university course. It will all be okay. Encourage your kids to stay motivated and focus on doing their best with what they have. 

Is your child ready to think about life after exams? Explore ACU.

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Impact brings you compelling stories, inspiring research, and big ideas from ACU. It's about the impact we’re having on our communities, and our Mission in action. It’s a practical resource for career, life and study.

At ACU it’s education, but not as you know it. We stand up for people in need, and causes that matter.

If you have a story idea or just want to say hello, do contact us.

Copyright @ Australian Catholic University 1998-2018 | ABN 15 050 192 660 CRICOS Reg: 00004G