Friday, 13 July 2018

There is a lot of hype and pressure about Year 12 so we asked Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, one of Australia's highest profile child psychologists, for his tips on how to help teenagers get through their final year of school.

What challenges do Year 12 students face as they prepare for exams and how can they be overcome?
1. Stress caused by the belief that they are their ATAR.
The final year of secondary school is important, but it will not be the most important year of your life. Keep things in perspective because you’re far more than your ATAR score!

2. Poor sleep. Your brain and body are closely connected – looking after your body by getting adequate rest has great benefits for your mind. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, limit coffee, energy drinks, cola and relax before going to bed with a good book or bath.

3. Distractions from social media. Create a study space free from distractions including noise and technology. Also switch off social media, TV and gadgets at least 90 minutes before bed. According to Beyond Blue, research shows students who use social media sites while studying (even if only in the background) get 20 per cent lower marks than students who don’t. Non-users of Facebook were also found to study a whopping 88 per cent longer outside class.

4. Peer pressure. Friendships are very important in helping us feel connected and supported, but sometimes friends can pressure us to do things we wouldn’t normally do, like skipping school to avoid studying. It’s ok to say ‘no’ and not feel guilty. Be true to yourself.

5. Balancing exercise and study. As well as eating healthy food and getting a good night’s sleep, exercising regularly can increase your productivity and improving your ability to manage intense emotions, like anger or fear.

Who should students talk to if they are feeling overwhelmed?
There are lots of things that we can do to help ourselves cope better but sometimes we also need help from other people. Find someone who you feel comfortable talking to like your School Counsellor, Year Coordinator, your local headspace (a youth mental health foundation that provides early mental health service intervention), the Northern Beaches Council Youth Service, a local GP or your parents.

What tips do you have to alleviate stress and be exam ready? Is it possible to enjoy your final year at school?
During Year 12 you may feel that you don’t have time to look after yourself physically and things like exercise and eating well might not be on the top of your ‘to-do’ list. However, eating healthy food, exercising regularly and trying to get as much sleep as you need can increase your productivity and actually help you get more done in a day. Don’t forget to also spend time with family and friends, do heaps of practice exams, go over assessed work and use the app Smiling Mind to do daily mindfulness meditation.

What advice do you have for parents during this difficult time?
There is an enormous amount of pressure on Year 12 students and it comes from parents, teachers, schools and the students themselves. There are a number of ways parents can support their children as they work through their final year of schooling including:

  1. Be their cheer squad
  2. Don't nag
  3. Provide food, drinks and love
  4. Be there
  5. Make sure they take breaks

If you feel the time isn’t right for you to complete Year 12, or you have a burning passion to do something other than school studies, then talk to your careers counsellor and find out what your options are (TAFE, a job, volunteering, part-time study, or an apprenticeship). Remember there are many ways to reach your goals.

For more information about Council’s Youth Services visit