Whether it’s a solo trip to a different country or facing a new term in a higher year, not having a clear sense of direction is daunting for your teenager. 

One of the main challenges students face in high school is feeling unsure about their future.  

“Are my marks good enough?”  

“Will I get an ATAR high enough for my course?”  

“What do I even want to study after school?”  

 These are just some of the despairing thoughts teenagers — specifically over 33% of students based on a 2023 report by Monash University — think about.  

It’s an alarming reality but not something parents can’t fight. In this blog, we will share five early signs that your child needs a clearer direction for the future so you can address them as early as Term 1. 

Five Red Flags of Uncertainty 

At Kalibrate-Ed, we’ve identified five early red flags you can watch out for based on our experience working with thousands of students and families. Spotting the early signs of uncertainty is one of the best moves you can make to nudge your child in the right direction. That way, you can help them become more proactive in charting their path for their future and more confident to proceed with their action plan. 

1. The constant ‘I dunno.’ 

Does your child get defensive when you ask them what they want to do or when you check in about their schoolwork? Do they easily shoot down ideas you suggest about courses or even future careers? Some parents may take this the wrong way, but it’s not that they don’t want to have a conversation with you — it might just be an uncomfortable topic.  

When teenagers don’t know what they want to do or are unsure where they’re heading, committing to anything is harder. And if they do, it might just be a gratuitous answer, which refers to their tendency to simply say “yes” to things even if it’s not true or not something they want for themselves.  

That’s why it’s crucial to have open conversations about their goals and aspirations. Ownership is very powerful — when teenagers can articulate what they want for their future, it’s easier to help them become proactive and ensure they take the proper steps towards success. 

2. The ‘last-minute mania.’

If your teenager has to drag their feet when starting assessments (can be literally) or constantly pushes study to the last minute, that’s a clear sign they need guidance. It’s hard to get things started when you’re not sure how and where it should go, and the same goes for teenagers.

Delaying is a causal response to needing a solid and clear picture of the future. “I don’t know how to do it, so I might as well not do it yet.” The tricky aspect of this ‘last-minute mania’ is that your child is the only one who can fix it. It needs a sense of direction that’s self-driven. You can’t impose the change; otherwise, they won’t work as efficiently or as effectively as if they chose to do it themselves. 

So how do you help? Ask about it. Maybe it’s because they’re anxious about a particular subject or because they simply don’t have a clue of where to begin. Uncovering why they choose to push back and delay things can make identifying solutions easier and help build their self-drive to accomplish their academic responsibilities on time. 

3. The lack of motivation and ‘just not feeling it.’

If you hear this a lot from your teenager, it’s a big red flag of uncertainty: 

“I just don’t feel like doing it”  or “I don’t like school.”  

Students who have a clear picture of their success plan and see school as a significant part of it will be engaged with their learning — even if they’re not interested in the subject. They understand it is part of a bigger picture and how it connects to their future.  

It’s inevitable for your child’s motivation levels to drop, especially when they’re unsure if all their efforts will be worth it. The key here is to help them build sustained motivation and equip your child with all the steps they’ll need so they can push through even with uncertainty. 

4. The poor exam results despite 100% effort.

This is probably one of the less obvious red flags, but it is very much on parents’ minds. Getting excellent school results takes consistent effort over the term. However, it’s not a natural skill for all students — it’s even more challenging for those who lack clear direction.  

Preparing for exams is a comprehensive, 13-step process. For someone who lacks the guidance needed, these steps can become blurrier, overwhelming and may not even make sense once put together. As a result, your child could skip necessary steps even after putting in their 100% effort, only to realise that once their exam results are already in,  

One way to tackle this is to get ahead of assessments and build a preparation strategy that could serve as their direction. It’s important to consider that it’s not just about how to retain content but also how to remain confident despite being in high-pressure situations.

5. The moodiness and ‘teenager angst.’

The raging hormones, the mood swings — you might think that this is just part of normal teenage adolescence. To some extent, it is. But sometimes, they react like that because they don’t know what to do. Children need some guidance. Most of the time, they just don’t know how to ask for it. 

So, how do we know if their behaviour is a mere biological response or a distress call? We need to identify what a baseline teenager going through school is. Is it adolescent stress, anxiety or moodiness? Some of that is natural, and there are places for that. Then, there are the pressures of the HSC, getting into university, being completely overwhelmed with the workload, and panicking during exams. These challenges are on top of the usual teenage drama and can be lessened by effective study strategies. 

How Kalibrate-Ed Helps 

Teenagers will always turn to their parents to ask for directions, and we want to help you turn their uncertainties into something that can make them ‘unstoppable.’  

At Kalibrate-Ed, we harness the power of a personalised learning strategy and invest our time in getting to know your child so they can chart their path to success in high school.  This is a crucial step in helping our students succeed, as seen in many studies, such as the 2022 NSW Department of Education report. 



We equip our students with the necessary skills and help them create their own GPS navigation to understand all their options, possible pathways and optimal timings to succeed. Once they have that in place, everything in their high school journey becomes so much easier. We also spend time understanding the typical stress levels of our students so we can pinpoint simple ways and structures to reduce that and help them build confidence even through uncertainty. 


If you want to learn more about how to guide your child and help them chart a path to success, we’re hosting a FREE live practical session with leading experts in time management, wellbeing and study skills. High School in Motion is scheduled for 20 March 2024 at 7 PM on Zoom. Click the button below to get your ticket.


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