December. A month that should be full of joy and excitement. Instead, it’s often filled with stress, exhaustion and an ambitious to-do list to complete before 2023 wraps up.
If you’re the parent of an HSC student, December can come with an extra layer of fun: results anxiety. Whether it’s your own or your teen’s anticipation about the looming HSC results, it’s important to keep a healthy perspective so things don’t spiral.
In this blog, Dr Jodie will help you navigate these big emotions, offering insights and guidance to build your teen’s resilience and outlook on the future.
Meet them where they’re at
If your teen is worked up over the HSC results, acknowledge their feelings and meet them where they’re at. This makes it easier to give them what they need. And they’ll be more open to hearing you.
As Dr Jodie emphasises, “Adolescents seek validation and understanding, and parents should meet them where they are, regardless of whether the source of anxiety seems rational or not.”
Keeping the conversation open, gives teens a much-needed outlet for their emotions.
Put your feelings aside and focus on the good
We all want the best for our kids. When we see greatness in them, it can be easy to project our hopes and dreams onto them. But, because our kids don’t want to disappoint us, this can intensify their anxiety. Instead, remind them of everything they’ve achieved: 13 years of school! This is a big deal, regardless of their results.
Challenge defeatist thinking
Sit down with your teen and get them to think about the worst-case scenario. Ask them what they fear most about the results. Doing this helps bring fears into the open, making them easier to manage. Often, the fear of the unknown is far worse than the reality. Fear loves a good fiction story and will conjure a horror show if you let it. Use this conversation as an opportunity to reassure and provide perspective.
Avoid calculating ATAR scores
In the era of instant information, it’s tempting to calculate ATAR scores ahead of the HSC results. A lot of students use online calculators to feel in control. Dr Jodie advises against this, reminding both parents and teenagers that trial results don’t necessarily reflect the final outcome. Obsessing over potential ATAR scores magnifies unhelpful thinking and can lead to greater teen anxiety.
Focus on what they can control
Shift the focus from what they can’t control to what they can. The exams are done. No amount of worrying will change the results. Encourage your teen to concentrate on what they can do. This might include doing things they enjoy, practising self-care, and maintaining a healthy routine. By redirecting their energy, they can regain a sense of control over their emotions.
Results won’t make or break their life
For some students, getting into their uni of choice is everything. Waiting on HSC results can weigh heavily on their mind. It’s crucial to remind your teen this is not a make-or-break situation. There are always options. Success comes in many forms, and HSC results don’t reflect potential or the amount of effort put in. They are just one part of a much bigger journey. Encourage your teen to see this bigger picture and remind them that not all learning is done at school. Besides, their HSC results won’t matter in a few years’ time. Very few employers ask for them.
Talk to them about life after HSC results
Get your teen to look beyond 2023. They’ve finished school and are free to choose what comes next. Get them excited about all the options available if they don’t get the results they were hoping for. A short course. Gap year. Trade. Work experience. Or a different uni. Share stories of individuals who found their paths through diverse avenues, reinforcing the idea that there’s no single road to success. Richard Branson, for example, is proof that your education doesn’t determine your future.
As 2023 comes to an end, let’s approach the HSC results with empathy, open communication (and an open-mind), so we can focus on the wellbeing of our teens. This can be a challenging time for many, but it can also be an opportunity to build resilience and look towards the future with a positive outlook.
Need to talk to someone about your teen’s anxiety?
If you’re concerned your teen’s worries about the future are taking a toll, talk to one of our clinical and registered psychologists at The Anxiety Clinic. We have in-person and online therapy for adults, kids and teens.