The Year 12 Roadmap: A guide for parents
The last year of high school is both exciting and terrifying. For students and parents alike. So strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.
My second taste of having a child finish high school is now well underway.
We’ve had a first weekend of homework and the first email commenting on their tardiness. There are two emotions battling in my heart at the moment – joy and fear. Joy that in 12 months time my child will take their place in the grown up world, and it’s going to be great. But there’s also a sense of dread about the challenges we have ahead in getting to that point.
“Education is what you learn after you leave school.”
Year 12 offers both the best and worst of times for our kids. So many wonderful milestones and experiences. Yet so much stress and worry too. And as parents, they often rely on us to help them navigate the highs and lows.
So here’s the parents’ roadmap for getting through Year 12 with your child and sanity intact.
The roadmap for finishing school well
It won’t seem like all that long ago that you farewelled them for their first day of school. Or shushed them out the door when they started high school. It’s amazing how quick the years of high school pass. But the 10 months of the senior year pass the quickest.
There are five stages in the year to get through that will call on all your wisdom and nous as a parent.
1. Out of the blocks
The last year of school starts at a cracking pace. Teachers like to set high expectations in the work and behaviour of kids. There’s all those leadership things getting underway, and the ceremonial stuff too.
- What parents can do to help – Be firm with the routines for homework and bedtime. Set up things at home so it become an oasis. They’re going to need it as the year goes on. Also be willing to challenge them if they take on too much in the excitement of being a senior.
- What to watch out for – Some kids can find the last year overwhelming. The thought of not being at school anymore and losing that familiar routine can be scary. Don’t let them think too far ahead at this stage. Talk about enjoying the moment and letting next year work itself out as the year goes on.
The first holidays of Year 12 present an opportunity for kids to catch up. Or not. They can get a jump on those assignments they have due next term. If they’re really keen, they’ll keep revising their notes. It can be tempting to develop an “all work, no play” mentality, or the complete opposite.
- What parents can do – Create some times where they do have to get away from the books and have fun. Kids who study too much at this stage could find they don’t have the stamina to get all the way through. If you’re not going away for the holidays, plan a couple of day outings to help them break out of the mold.
- What to watch out for – Kids who don’t do anything. All Year 12 students will have something they could be doing over their first break. If they avoid working all together, they’re going to make the path tougher when school goes back. Talk about the importance of pacing themselves. It’s better to leave a few minutes early to catch the train rather than have to sprint at the end and still miss it.
“Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg didn’t finish college. Too much emphasis is placed on formal education – I told my children not to worry about their grades but to enjoy learning.” – Nassim Nicholas Taleb
3. The first big exam block
By the time kids reach Year 12 they should’ve got used to sitting exams. But the weight of expectation can often change how they handle these ones. The temptation to over study, or cram, raises it’s ugly head. Panic can set in at the thought of “failing”. These exams need to be put in their place. They’re part of the journey to being an adult, not the whole thing.
- What parents can do – Stay calm and don’t hound them. As their emotions go up a notch, bring yours down one. Help them to find healthy ways to deal with their stress. Have a look at my article on 40 coping skills for some ideas.
- What to watch for – Signs that they’re stuck in negative thinking patterns. Where kids don’t process the stress of striving for a future they think they want, they can develop the signs of anxiety or depression. Invite them to talk, and if you notice they’ve been down for a couple of weeks and can’t bounce back, get help.
4. Third term is awful
I don’t know many parents who enjoy that space between July and September in Year 12. The majority of their final assessments fall due now. There’s university applications to do, and more people asking what they’ll do when they finish.
There’s a contagious sense of panic among the year level as well. As kids share their fears and worries with one another, they can make everyone feel more stressed.
What parents can do – Batten the hatches. Become the best parent you can be. Cut back on any extra responsibilities you can and focus on being there for your kids. Good food, healthy sleep patterns and a bit of fun help too.
What to watch for – Some kids can give up when it gets too much. They can decide that they’re not going to do as well as they’d hoped and not know what to do about it.
This is the time to start talking about the many roads to happiness after school. There is no “right” way to do things. They get to choose their own adventure and we need to be there cheering them on. Telling them that they are going to make a great life. This is the time to help them start setting some real goals for the coming years. To help them look for options that they like the look of, not what others thing would work for them.
5. The finish line
The last few weeks of Year 12 pass quick. For kids who know what they’re doing they can start to relax and enjoy the process. Particularly if they’ve already got things in place.
For kids who still have no idea what they’ll do next year, panic can start to set in. They can find the long drawn out farewell a reminder of what their leaving behind.
What parents can do – Take it one day at a time. There’s a lot of ceremony in the last weeks that kids should try to enjoy. They’ll never get to experience these things again. Now isn’t the time to worry about next year. Let them finish and then you can clean up the pieces if you need to.
What to watch for – Withdrawal from those special events. Kids who are having trouble facing the future can find it hard to go to all the “lasts”. The last day of classes. The last assembly. The last time in uniform. Graduation and formals. Focus on the positives of these experiences. What things about school they’re looking forward to casting aside. The friendships they’ll hang onto, and the adventures that are bubbling away in their imagination already.
Year 12 is an amazing journey for young people, and their parents. It’s brings to a close their childhood. Lots of things change when they’re no longer at school. Your relationship. Their dependence on you. And what say you have in their lives.
So no matter what Year 12 throws your way, remember that the most important thing at the end of it is a great relationship with your teenager. That’s the legacy to focus on. Not their grades and not the awards.
Do you have someone going through Year 12? Perhaps you’ve already been there. What were some of the highs and lows for you?