It was past 10.30 pm in the middle of the week. Our daughter was in Term 3 of Year 12. She probably should have been sleeping, but there was a meltdown.
The cause? An essay that needed to be handed in the next day, and an empty page in front of her.
How many marks do you need to pass?’ I asked her.
‘Well, this is the third part of a three-part assignment. I finished the others weeks ago.’
When we averaged out how much she had already received for the other two sections, we worked out that in order to pass this assignment, she needed to achieve only about 20 per cent: two out of ten.
‘It seems to me that if you put your name and about three sentences on this assignment, you could achieve 2 out of 10. So, anything more than that is a bonus. Do you think you could do that?’
She looked at me, stunned. ‘Are you serious? Would that really be okay with you?’
‘Would that be okay with you is the more important question. If getting fantastic marks is keeping you from finishing, perhaps you need to relax a little and just do it. I reckon you can get 20 per cent. I’m going to bed. Goodnight.’
I went off to bed, but not before I’d received a big hug and saw her contentedly sitting on her bed, typing away on my laptop. Next morning she told me that she had finished in about 40 minutes. And several weeks later, she said, ‘I got my essay back, Mum. I got 86 per cent.’
Somebody has said, ‘When a child does Year 12, the whole family does Year 12.’ We agree!
We’ve now survived four of our kids doing Year 12. Anybody else who’s had a Year 12 in their house probably understands what I mean by ‘survived’. We thought that third time round it should be a breeze. We were wrong. Thankfully, by the fourth child, we’d relaxed somewhat.
Unfortunately, it’s really easy to get caught up in the storm when our kids are struggling with deadlines and the pressure of Year 12. But what can we do to keep the whole family sane?
Here are some things we’ve learnt.
Try to keep Year 12 in perspective.
Year 12 is one year out of a life-expectancy of 80-plus years. Yes, a great score enables our kids to get into their first choice of university courses. But there are all sorts of detours that they can take to eventually achieve the same goal.
What makes people ultimately employable is not their Year 12 score. Developing people skills, playing in a sports team or participating in a group, as well as working on stickability, perseverance, creativity and using initiative are attributes every person can achieve, regardless of academic ability.
Keep our own lives balanced.
Only then can we help our teens balance their lives. Help them to see the value of maintaining a balance between the mental, physical, spiritual and social aspects of our lives.
Get to know the teachers at the beginning of the year
and keep in touch with them. Teachers work better with parents who encourage and are interested, and want to work with them.
Let the teachers know your tricks for motivating your child. For example, kids often respond better if you speak their love language: Are words of encouragement their best aid to learning? Do they prefer spending quality time with others in order to get their work done or might they benefit by time alone in the library? Does physical touch such as big bear hugs or rigorous activity help them? Do they learn through doing things for others or really appreciate others doing things for them? Do they respond to rewards and gifts as simple as stickers? (Don’t ask me how I know this!)
Make handing in assignments and essays worthwhile in the student’s eyes—for example: ‘Once you’ve finished that assignment, why don’t we go to that movie you wanted to see’.
Give them the opportunity to see where a good score might take them. Encourage them to speak to other adults in different occupations and explore opportunities for work experience. University open days can also be inspirational for students who are struggling to see the point of studying. They demonstrate careers that our kids (and we) may never have dreamed of.
Let your young person know you’re interested.
Know their schedule. Get them to post their weekly school schedules and assignment due-dates on a family calendar, or print out a copy of their diary – so that you don’t plan a camping trip the day before an assignment is due. (Don’t ask me how I know this one, either).
Remember that you are the adult
You might need to monitor their time management. Plan rest days or weekends in which nothing is happening. Practise a weekly ‘Sabbath’ with them – that means to consciously have a day of rest – with no homework and a complete break from school-life.
Encourage part-time jobs, but not too much!
Part-time jobs help them to see the bigger picture, learn responsibility and accountability. The teachers at our local school have learnt that those who do well work part-time jobs six hours a week or less.
Be on the same page.
If your child wants to achieve, watch for ways to help.
If your child is hoping just to finish, encourage them to hand in all their assignments.
If your child has no intention of studying, it’s no use nagging—although it may help to give them a reality check if you encourage them to get a job and let them manage their own finances. That way they can find out how tough it is to pay for things on a low wage.
Some things you might try: Keep them supplied with healthy snacks and a walking partner. Sit with them while they study and help underline passages, or copy out charts that they need to learn by rote and post them all over the house (especially in the loo). Be a sounding-board – but remember that any expression of frustration is not a personal attack.
In our home, Year 12’s were exempt from doing the dishes. That was a small way that the rest of the family could let the Year 12 know that we supported them.
Be aware of different learning styles.
Recognise your student’s need for suitable study conditions. Some people need bright light and open areas in order to study, while others need dim light. Some need to have noise around them. One of our children found it useful to go babysitting for friends so that she could study there undisturbed. Mozart has been known to enhance concentration. Other music could be left for relaxation time.
Life may be tough during Year 12. The less pressure we apply and the more available we are as parents, the better it will be for the students in our lives. By encouraging our students to keep at it, balancing school life with a healthy lifestyle and maintaining friendships, and not too much computer/screen time, we can create positive memories of Year 12—hopefully for the whole family.
Originally published as ‘Year 12 Survival Guide for Parents’ in The Lutheran, 2012 August edition. http://www.thelutheran.com.au