Karen Lomas
October 4, 2022

What can Parents do to help their Year-12 student during their study leave – Australian students

Dear parents of year-12 students

It’s almost done! This academic year for your child. It’s amazing that it’s gone so quickly and wonderful that they have, for the most part, been able to attend classes this year. I’m sure you feel immensely proud of the hard work your child has put in this year and across their compulsory schooling. Some years have been easier than others, but, at this time, you can begin to celebrate with them and for them.

I was anxious from time to time during the final academic year at school for each of my now adult daughters. They are both now working and independent and this makes me really happy. As  I reflect in this blog, as both a mum and as a career coach, I’ll just touch upon what I personally feel are some of the the things you might be doing for your child over this study period and in the build-up to their exams (assuming they are indeed sitting exams).

End of an Era – Graduating High School

Some students are already on study leave from Australian schools. Others across Australia finish term 3 in the next few days and weeks. It really is the beginning of the end.

This is a thrilling time for most Year-12s. Do share your delight with them. Let them know they’re “nearly there!” rather than seeing this “end” as something loaded with sadness, or negatives.

You will undoubtedly feel a little sentimental and they may well do also. But they are now launching and for the most part they will be experiencing a mixture of excitement with a dose of trepidation and that’s quite normal. Be there to pick them up, as necessary, but also try to be positive.

“Think before you act, my dear!”

Many schools have final events and activities that are celebratory. This will mean that they might go a bit bonkers for a little while. Do not be surprised if they appear ready for school dressed in their friend’s over-large, or radically too-small garments. That often happens on the traditional “Muck-Up Day”, when large quantities of toilet paper are strewn around trees or used to mummify friends. The schools are accustomed to this, so don’t worry that your child will be in enormous trouble for their apparel on that day. Simply caution them to” think before you act”, as some muck-up day antics can be frowned upon, such as causing damage to property, of course.

Formal School-based celebrations – Be there if you can

There may be a school service, graduation concert and/or Valedictory event. These bring the students together to recognise their efforts and perhaps even to give prizes to ‘Most Improved’, ‘Best in Subject’, etc. The prizes and gifts can be a distraction and if your child comes away without one, tell them, again, that year-12 was just one of many years of their lives during which they may gain some form of recognition. We can’t all be Top Gun!

For parents it can be a really moving experience to see their child graduate high school. I remember those occasions really well myself; desperately trying to smile through tears of pride and nostalgia. Many parents feel quite emotional that their child is farewelling a school they might have been attending for many years. Do make the effort, if you can, to join in with any of the celebrations that the school hosts for parents. It makes your child aware of the significance of the transition and the extent to which you as their parents wish to acknowledge their achievement.

But there are likely to be exams & course applications to complete…

Then it’s time to reset. Your child needs to remember that it’s likely not quite finished, because those celebrations typically occur before exam time. Even though those celebrations might make them feel as if summer has already started. No! If they are sitting exams, that’s not the case. So how can you ensure that your child doesn’t switch off and settle in front of Netflix 24/7, or start going out super late with their friends?

Of course, you are going to let them sleep in after a final year group parties, but how then to galvanise them into action?

For many, indeed, there is the question, besides their studies and final folio submissions, of applying to courses for 2023, or beyond. You can help by making sure that you too have recorded the key deadlines and due dates. This is so that you can double-check that they are up to date.

VTAC, UAC, QTAC and other applications centres around Australia publish regular Instagram posts, and run webinars, have uploaded Youtube information vidoes. Look these up and follow the relevant websites and social media platforms. Once your year-12 child has created their application account (and PAID the fee), they will receive emails from the centre(s). Check in with them to make sure they look to their account regularly for those emails.

Your child’s school is responsible for ensuring that your child applies in good time. Timely applications close at the end of September. This does NOT mean that they cannot apply after this deadline. It simply means that after the end of this month the fees will increase.

It’s best for your child to apply NOW and then they can add preferences, complete SEAS and Scholarships applications subsequently.

SEAS & Scholarships application deadlines fall in early October. Please be sure that if your child has documents to upload for SEAS applications, these are requested from the relevant person/organisation, written and submitted in good time. Your child’s school is responsible for managing this process, as legally there is only one other person who is privy to the application portal data. This is the School-based Careers Teacher.  Please contact the school should you have any questions or concerns.

Maintaining Harmony in the home

I’ve been there. My daughters are now in their late 20s, but I remember each of the respective Year-12s really well. Many years prior I listened to a radio discussion about negotiations with teenagers. The guest speaker suggested that the key to parenting is to “pick your fights”. Decide what you will not allow. Michael Carr-Gregg wrote a great guide, called Surviving Adolescents: The Must-Have Guide for all Parents. It’s not too late to grab a copy!

When you knock on the door and walk into your child’s room and, on seeing them binge-watching Stranger Things, avoid the assumption that they’re wasting their time being idol. To blurt out, “Why aren’t you studying?” is potentially inflammatory. It could be they have just completed a mammoth revision session and are chilling out for a bit. The moral panics, such as around “failure”, are so pervasive and simply serve to fuel our fears. For the majority of us, young adults included, a few hours of computer gaming; a big night out or three, do not a monster make and will not ruin their lives!

Try to be fair and reasonable, or there is likely to be a rebellion. Your child is now a young adult and so a bit of “attitude” may be demonstrated around that point. Choose your moments and try to guide rather than dictate. One suggestion might be that you call them after 45-minutes more study, to come join the family for a break over dinner. Knock on the door and deliver a coffee, or top up their water bottle. Little gestures go a long way to ensuring that they know you’re there for them.


Remember that negotiating means saying that they can, of course, go out, but perhaps not until they have completed a priority task, such as their homework. You can also try to negotiate how long you would prefer that they spend on those leisure activities. If those respectful foundations have been laid down throughout their childhood, they may be obliging. If they outright challenge you, refusing to listen to you, remember they are now a young adult and might well bluntly point out that fact to you. They need to take responsibility for their decisions. So, if this is their attitude towards you in these moments, simply acknowledge their free will. A gentle; “It’s up to you, darling”, tells them that you are going to trust them, which is really powerful.

A Study Routine

A study routine is helpful for sure. First of all, it’s important to trust them. Their subject teachers, and their Head of Year/Homeroom Teacher will have been drumming it into them that there’s still a lot to do. They will most likely have received some coaching around how to optimise the break. For example, I hear from some students that their teachers have already recommended that they pretend they are still following a school timetable. That means the suggestion that they continue to set their alarms as per term time. Then to divide their days up in a similar routine to the class structure – to take lunch and recess breaks at the same time as school. Broadly I think this is sound advice, but we are all different and some of us gain more from getting up a bit later and studying late in the evening.

I did this when I was studying for my undergraduate degree, 15 years ago. I like a siesta sometimes and then I could write and read later in the day. I did mention this to a student client the other day. This NSW Year-12 student told me she had been advised to stick to a school timetable. When I asked her if she liked staying in bed a little longer in the mornings, she told me she is a true Night Owl. So long as adolescents are getting 9 hours of quality sleep each night, maybe don’t necessarily insist on a 7am alarm. You know them well, so respect their routine. Here’s a handy guide, from Headspace, regarding Study Routines and Exam Preparation.

The impact of Lockdowns on Routines

Ideally our teenagers have already established some good habits and routines. However, successive Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns has caused a significant shift in behaviours for many. Try to be accepting that avoidant behaviours (procrastinating/focusing on a pleasurable activity) are not unusual, at this time, as your child is leaning on something they know and love and this is therefore comforting for them.

Words of support and encouragement are what’s needed at this time. Acknowledge that habits are so easily formed and hard to break. We see this in simple habits. Try the words; “Perhaps it might be best now for you to try a change of routine. Do you need some help with this?”.

We now know that the global pandemic has been enormously detrimental to the mental well-being of our youth groups. I’ve written about this previously and a book on this, by Chip Le Grand, was recently published , entitled Lockdown. Whilst this book focuses on the Melbourne context, due to the sheer extent of this issue, some of the impacts reach far and wide. If your child isn’t eating, or is binge-eating, this might be something to keep an eye on. Pay attention also to other ‘out-of-character’ behaviours, such as obsessive exercising, broken sleep patterns, mood swings.

Meanwhile, the annual RU OK? Day has arrived this year at just the time to remind us as parents of the essential role of friends and family.

It’s Their Future!

Remember it’s THEIR future, not yours! We learn by mistakes. All of us make them and adolescence is the life stage when many of us fall on our faces. Sometimes we need to slip up to pick ourselves up again and the chances are that if your Year-12 does slip up, they’ll be ok. As parents we are sometimes afraid, wondering; “What will become of them?” Our children will ‘be-come’. We learn from the falls, just as toddlers adapt and persevere when they’re learning to walk. This is referred to in motivation theory as self-determination. Humans do not need to be incentivised to try. We are hard programmed from birth to try, try and try again.

Year 12 is NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT YEAR OF THEIR LIVES, as the mass media (even some schools) would have it. It’s part of the journey. Talk to me if you do have some questions and if your year-12 has questions about their course applications, we can book them in for a consultation. Just visit www.karenyourcareercoach.com/contact/

Finally, if you are concerned about your child, at any time, please do not wait to seek help. Here’s a link to keep handy:

LifeLine: https://www.lifeline.org.au/

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