Preparing for the HSC
At a glance
- You don't need to be a subject expert to help your child prepare for the HSC.
- Make sure your teen is getting enough sleep.
- Good nutrition is vital.
- They can reduce stress by balancing study with physical activity, social life and other interests.
- Part-time work shouldn't be more than 10-hours a week.
- Remember there is an end in sight.
- Stay in contact with the school and speak with teachers about how to support your child.
Teachers talk about how parents can help their teen manage the study load and stress when they're preparing for the HSC.
Sometimes it feels like the whole family is preparing for the HSC. How can I help my child do well?
If your child is presently studying the HSC there are some really practical ways in which you can assist them
I know when my daughter was doing her HSC I thought I was prepared for it because I had taught HSC classes. It was so different as a parent going through it with her than what it was as a teacher.
Number one is patience. We all need a great deal of patience. There is this sense of fear with exams that you're going to be told you're not as smart as you'd like to think you are, or you're going to be told that you're not good enough.
So however the stress manifests itself, we need as parents to be able to identify it and to mitigate it because a stressed child is not going to do well in the exams.
Firstly I'd say don't panic.
Especially because it can be very, very frustrating for parents, in my experience, whereby they know that their children should be doing more work or whatever the case may be, and they're not.
I think they need to be aware, particularly in creative arts, that it's often very emotive and it's quite close often to the kids' hearts so they do get very emotional about their work, so that does provide another layer of stress.
They need to take good care of themselves because they do put a lot of pressure on themselves and we often find that kids who put a lot of pressure on themselves don't last the distance because they sort of fall apart at the end.
Some of the things I would say to parents would be make sure your children are getting a good diet in terms of nutrition.The other thing would be to make sure they have a regular sleep pattern.
Sleep deprivation is one of the major problems with today's adolescent – their phones go off 24/7.
You need to talk about this with your child – your new adult – and work through, "How much sleep do you need?" "How much sleep are you getting?"
Because a tired student is not an effective student.
They need an outlet. They need an outlet to have fun, they need an outlet to be physical, they need an outlet to be with their family – they need all of that to get through.
You need to encourage them to get up and go for a walk, to still play sport, to still be active.
Students are often told that they need to develop a study timetable and I say to them they need to actually schedule their life and the need to make sure they put time in for school work, for socialising, for sport, and for friends and family because if they don't schedule all of that, they will often find that something's missing.
Most importantly I would say to parents, try to have your children leading as normal a life as possible.
Just because they're doing the HSC doesn't mean they don't have time to do the washing up, or time to do the household chores, time to have a job, time to go see their friends and so forth.
If students want to have a part-time job while they're doing the HSC that's something that is perfectly OK, as long as they keep it to a manageable amount, which is usually less than 10 hours across the week – anything more than 10 hours, not so good.
The biggest thing I think is balance. And especially with busy students and students who are attaining the top marks, when you have a look at what they're doing they're engaged in sport or culture or music or whatever the case may be and they're doing work, they're well rounded and they're well balanced and I think that helps them, not hinders them, in how they go about the HSC journey, because it is a long journey.
By having these other distractions, it allows them to take their mind and their focus off the HSC, do some other things and then come back to it, and I think that actually helps them in overcoming the tremendous pressures and stress that are associated with the HSC.
Give them some space at home, where they can work and feel they can work uninterruptedly.
I know a lot of parents say that they lose their dining table, or they lose their lounge room table, or they totally just closed off that part of the house, it does pass, and it's a process that our students have got to go through.
You know, the top students do have excellent time management skills. It's something we teach them here at school, it's something they learn from their parents at home as well and they see what their parents are doing.
Sitting up the night before and trying to cram it all in is not going to work.
The HSC questions don't encourage rote learning – you need to understand what you're doing.
In my experience, the students who do well have a parent who is supportive, and that parent will make contact with the school and engage in a relationship with the teacher, and look for ways to help the student.
Mostly it's emotional support in just helping the students keep a good balance between their school work and the other things in their lives, and I think that's the biggest key for parents.
There's a lot of thinking and support we can give as parents without knowing anything at all about the content of the exam.
It's a great idea to ask your child about the texts they're studying because when they tell you what they're learning about it reinforces the learning they're doing in class.
A suggestion that we would have for families about trying to minimise the stress in the household while a child is doing the HSC, is communication.
Communication between the child and the parent about what's happening at school so that parents are informed and they can be supportive in a positive way.
Sometimes parents will want to know more information from the school about what's happening with their child. We would encourage parents to contact the school, to come and make appointments to see teachers or to call teachers, but keeping those lines of communication open is really important – even if the child isn't really thrilled about that.
So as parents it's frustrating. It's difficult. It's a time that tests our patience, but it's also a time when our children – and even the biggest of them do find the child in them coming up to exams – when our children need our support.
For more information about planning and studying read our HSC survival guide.
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