In this episode of the podcast Alex speaks with parenting expert Sarah Wainwright about how to help our teens navigate life after their final Year 12 exams. The final Year 12 exams are an important delineator for Aussie teens. They represent the pinnacle of 13 years of schooling and a couple of years of particularly hard work. But often the build up to the exams can be all encompassing that there isn’t time to contemplate life after the final exams. So, in this episode Sarah and I workshop how to help your teens transition to life after these final exams.

Sarah Wainwright

In addition to being a mum to 4, Sarah writes a parenting column for the Sydney Observer Magazine. she also has an Instagram platform ‘Parenting Tips’ which is dedicated to helping parents navigate the often complex job of being a parent!

HSC Pressure

The Pressure Teens Feel Can Often Be Overwhelming. Even if parents have made a concerted effort to reduce any pressure on their HSC bound teens, the teens can often feel pressure from their school, their peer group or it can even come from themselves, particularly if they have lofty ambitions.

Many teens can even burn out before they get to the final exams so Sarah suggests parents keep a close eye on their kids to ensure they are not burning out as the pressure increases and the final exams approach.

The COVID-19 Factor

COVID19 has without a doubt made the final year of school even harder. Many Year 12 students have been isolated, had to learn remotely at home and had to deal with both uncertainty and disappointment. So, Sarah believes it is more important than ever to celebrate the completion of the exams.

Whether you have a family dinner, give them a special key ring or take them away on a surprise getaway – the aim is to ensure your teen feels the love and that their important achievement is marked. Sarah believes rituals are an important way of celebrating the end of school for your teen so if this is your first teen to complete Year 12, it might be worth thinking about what family ritual you might like to introduce to commemorate this for all your children.

Sarah has some great advice for parents to help them navigate this often complicated period. Here are her top tips:

Adjusting Expectations

Sarah believes that parents need to adjust their expectations of their teens after a difficult year. And helping kids live with the uncertainty that COVID has brought – we are not always going to have the answers that we used to.

Schoolies – 2020 Style!

With the QLD border closed, Schoolies on the Gold Coast will not be a reality for kids south of Queensland this year. But many coastal town in NSW and VIC have made it very clear that they are happy to welcome school leavers in their towns – and after the devastation from the bushfires over Summer, this would also certainly be a boost for local business.

Encourage a Routine

Helping your kids establish a routine after the HSC can be so important. Sarah recommends having a flexible approach to this perhaps having a list of things to do each day rather than allocating a particular time to compete a task. Incorporating exercise into this is essential. Getting out each day in the sunshine will be also be beneficial for their mental health.

Ensuring Your Kids Have Face to Face Contact

If your child is struggling with social connection post HSC, Sarah recommends trying to help your teen establish a community. It could be volunteering, pet sitting or simply getting a job. Human connection is critical!

Gap Years 2020 Style!

Many school leavers will be disappointed that an overseas gap year will be off the agenda however Tourism Australia is encouraging school leavers to consider our own backyard for a gap year. Whether it’s fruit picking or road tripping, it’s a great opportunity to explore the beauty in our own backyard which is often ignored when the excitement of an overseas trip beckons.

There is also an organisation, the American Institute for Foreign Study, which is putting together organised options for Aussie school leavers wanting a gap year. Surf camps in Northern NSW, adventures in the Daintree or working on stations in the Northern Territory. You can find those details here.

It’s Not Too Late to Apply for Uni or Tafe

Late applications will be accepted through UAC till early February 2021 and Tafe applications in January so there is still plenty of time to put together a study plan for 2021. And TAFE can often be a great pathway to university – in fact completion of a Certificate 3 or 4 at TAFE will often give you entry straight into University without even needing ot use your ATAR.

Be Realistic That Risky Behaviour Maybe on the Agenda

Life after the HSC is often a time when kids like to ‘put their toe in the water’ and try out some risky behaviours. Sarah believes that this is unavoidable and parents need to have realistic expectations.

In fact so much research shows that from 16-18 onwards, teens will be experimenting with sex, drugs and alcohol. The most important thing is that the lines of communication between parents and young people stay open.

Sarah recommends ensuring your teen has a trusted friend with them if they are going to be drinking or doing something risky. She also believes that we need to trust our teens to make good choices in friends. She also recommends sharing numbers between friends and parents as another layer of protection in case someone needs to be contacted in case of an emergency.

Alex likes to use Life360 or Find My Friends with her teens until they reach a certain age. She likes to do this while they are still finding their feet and starting to go out till very late into the city. However every family has their own approach and should work out what best work for them. Sara simply requires her teens text her to update her on their whereabouts.

You can find Alex’s chat with Sarah on your favourite podcast app, or via the link below.

Happy listening!

Alex xx