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Helping your child manage VCE stress

It’s that time of year again. As VCE preparation ramps up, so can your child’s emotions. So how can you help them survive and thrive during the next few months?

NEWS 12 Oct 2022

For thousands of students across the state, the pressure is on. VCE assessments and exams are looming and it’s natural for teenagers to feel their anxiety levels rising as they reach the pointy end of their time at school.

It can seem that years of homework, essay writing, exams, reading and revision all come down to this – a busy VCE examination timetable with no relief in sight for some until the final exams draw to a close at 4.15pm on Wednesday, 16 November.

If you have a teenager who is completing VCE this year, be prepared for some rocky and challenging moments, and during those more emotionally-charged or emotionally-draining episodes, remind yourself that, as it does every year, the stress will pass and there is life after VCE.

In the meantime, what can a parent say or do to try and ease some of the VCE pressures for their child?

Here, Diane Furusho, Deputy Principal – Student Wellbeing and Maria Bailey, Haileybury Director of Counselling Services, share their professional – and personal – insights of helping teenagers navigate VCE stress.

  • “Don’t trivialise VCE by saying ‘it’s only an exam or it’s only Year 12’. Don’t tell them it’s not the end of the world if they don’t do well,” says Diane. “For your teenager, this may be the biggest situation they’ve had to deal with, so don’t make light of it.”
  • “One of the best things you can do as a parent is to be quiet and just listen. Often, if you try and offer a comment or advise, there may be unfavourable reactions and you will get your head bitten off! If you try and share your own similar experiences when you were at school, you’re likely to be told it was different or easier in your day and you have no idea what it’s like. So let your child express their frustrations and feelings and just listen,” adds Diane. The one thing that you can say to them in those moments are those three special words ‘I love you’.
  • Provide practical support by focusing on basics, says Maria. “Encourage them to sleep well, to go to bed at a reasonable time and to keep up regular exercise routines. Keep the fridge and pantry stocked with healthy snacks, too,” she says.
  • If your child has been locked in their room studying for a while, take them in a drink or some fruit and even some chocolate as a treat. Let them know you noticed they’ve been at their desk for some time and you thought they might be hungry or thirsty.
  • Help your child do some intentional planning. Create a calendar that lists when their VCE assessments and exams are and help them work backwards and plan what they need to do each week or day to be prepared for those dates.
  • “At this time of the year, teenagers can start experiencing automatic negative self-talk. If you hear them starting to talk negatively about their efforts and expectations for exams, help them counter that by reminding them what they have done so far to prepare and encourage some self-compassion,” says Maria.
  • When your child does have a break from study, make sure it’s a time when they can relax. Don’t ask them if they’ve done this or that chore yet. Let them mentally relax and switch off.
  • Remind them that there will be life beyond VCE. “There will be three or four weeks of exams and during that time, a lot of students won’t go out,” says Diane. “But during moments when your child is taking a break, ask them about what they’re looking forward to doing when exams are done. It helps to remind them that there is an endpoint to VCE and the stress that they might be experiencing right now won’t last forever.”
  • Enjoy the final moments of celebrations and graduations together and well done to every parent for supporting your child through their educational journey. It will be time for everyone to have a break soon!