Father teaching his son to drive

“I’m a bit lost. Not sure where to go?”
“Where do I find that [thing]?”
“I’m just not used to how things yet.”

Isn’t it interesting how teenagers often (unknowingly) say things about high school as if they’re driving or on a trip?

If you’ve ever gone on a road trip to a big city or travelled to a different country for the first time, you’ve probably felt the same. You flew through the airport. You know where your hotel is. You know where the best cafés are to visit for a quick cuppa. You might have even had a vague idea of which direction some famous landmarks or attractions you want to visit are located.

While most major attractions are well-marked and cater well to tourists on the main drag, how do you ensure you see each without getting lost? How do you navigate the local customs and shortcuts within the city so that when you think back, you remember the good parts of the experience and carry the lessons learned with you?

The thing is, that is EXACTLY what high school is like for your child. And they’re anxious about what lies ahead: their learning and education, the possibilities of not getting a job, etc. Based on 2020 research by Beyond Blue, four out of five children aged five to 15 worry about these things.

Working with thousands of students over the years, one of the biggest challenges parents shared with us is that they don’t know how to guide their child in high school or make sure they’re making the right choices for their future. Wouldn’t it be nice to have Waze or Google Maps in your back pocket to avoid these trickier, more stressful parts of raising a teenager?

In this article, we will pin down some of the things that might cause “traffic jams” in your child’s way so you can nudge them toward the right direction and help them avoid taking the wrong turns.

What Keeps Your Child Feeling Lost?

1. Brushed-off signs of uncertainty and calls for help.

Teenagers may not communicate that they need help directly, but there will be manifestations of their struggle that can be easily brushed off by parents.

Girl looking on her phone while reading

You’ll be seeing this every day in those moments when they evade or get defensive about discussing their schoolwork or their plans for the future. Maybe it takes a whole hour just to get them off scrolling on TikTok or watching YouTube before starting on their assignments. A decline in exam results is probably a less obvious sign because it happens over time but in our experience, inconsistent study habits and exam preparation speak a lot about their lack of certainty and guidance than just a failure to grasp knowledge. Sometimes, it’s easy to mistake study anxiety for normal teenage hormones and drama, thinking that “it’s not something I should micromanage about my child.”

With all the parents we work with, there will be at least two or three of these signs manifested by their kids. No two children are alike, and it’s almost always a different mix — a different combination of signs and struggles for each child and in every single family. And that’s why we believe in supporting students and families the way they need to feel empowered to move forward, rather than what works for everyone else.

2. The pressures of the “HSC dream.”

Ahh, the HSC dream — all children are expected to put their noses to the grindstone and study like mad during Year 12, the final year of high school. Some parents and even schools can put a lot of pressure on getting top marks on the HSC exams and using it to get into universities and land the “dream career” that can overwhelm a child going through high school one day at a time.

Student writing on a notebook in a classroom

Parents usually think, “Well, it’s supposed to be hard, right?” The answer is no; it doesn’t have to be. Assuming that it’s natural for your child to struggle in the HSCs It opens the gate for more sinister concerns: heightened anxiety, burnout, and the lack of self-drive that they may take for the rest of their future college life and careers.

Getting through Year 12 and even going through university does not have to be brutal or stressful for your child. This is a limiting belief—that Year 12 NEEDS to be hard. But it doesn’t. In fact, for students who are in a place of advanced readiness—they are EAGER to sit exams and they welcome the challenge. Year 12 is an incredibly rewarding year both academically and more importantly in terms of personal development and growth. The year can be as ‘hard-free’ as your child chooses it to be, but it starts by changing their way of thinking and their relationship with the year.

3. Asking the wrong questions.

Have you ever started what seemed like a commonsense conversation about why they started their assessments late, or why they think they’re not performing as well as you expected them to? You only want to help but somehow, they get irritated and end up on the defensive.

Mother talking to her child

It’s not that these questions are bad. It’s just that when we push hard to know why, sometimes that can import a lot of judgment and overwhelm a child already struggling to come up with an answer.

Now I know that the last thing any parent wants to do is things harder for them. So what can we do? We can start by reframing our questions to get to the bottom of what’s causing your child to be uncomfortable. “What are you unsure about? How can I help you with this?” Flipping the “why” into “what” and “how” can be heard coming from a place of curiosity instead of judgment, which makes it easier for children to open up and for parents to locate the reasons behind their challenges.

Your Child’s Journey

Navigating through high school is a journey — there are a lot of “attractions” to see, a lot more to do, and a ton of goals to achieve. There are the high stakes of subject selection and how it will set the tone of your child’s high school learning. There are pressures to achieve a Band 6 in the HSC or a desirable ATAR ranking. Not to mention the expectations of university admission and receiving early offers because it seems like a set standard within their cohort. Sometimes, your child stumbles over because they get so caught up in looking at all the “sights” and possibilities they forget to look where they’re going.

They will always turn to you, their parents, to ask for directions. But it also helps to have some form of navigation that provides that perfect framework so you and your child can focus on the positive aspects of the learning experience rather than the stressful, anxiety-ridden ones.

Two women discussing

At Kalibrate-Ed, we invest our time in getting to know the students and design a personalised learning strategy to chart their path in high school — a crucial step in helping our students succeed. This approach is reflected by the 2022 NSW Department of Education report personalised learning can enable student success and achievement. We support that by helping them create their GPS or map so they can navigate their future turn by turn and understand all their possible route options and different timings. We also spend a lot of time working with students and their families to understand what the normal experience is regarding healthy stress levels. Stress is a normal part of life but there are always opportunities to reduce overwhelming, counter-productive stress by putting in simple structures to lift their confidence and prevent build-up of stress which can be closely linked to motivation. From there, the journey becomes so much clearer and simpler.

If you want to explore this for your child, our education strategists are available to lend an ear to your questions and a hand to guide you in the process. Click here to schedule a complimentary consultation: https://calendly.com/kalibrate-ed/lets-chat.