What else can I do to help?
Here are some ideas to help your son or daughter stay on top of things and reduce stress levels during the VCE years.
1. Prepare a schedule
Help your son or daughter come up with a daily and weekly schedule.
Try putting leisure and non-academic activities into the schedule first, such as:
- Part-time work
- Extracurricular activities
- Family time
- Time with friends
- Time spent relaxing
Then, fit in study blocks (usually 45 minutes) around the activities.
Encourage them to take frequent short breaks away from their desk!
Short breaks should be about 5 minutes for every 40-50 minutes of study.
Breaks should be energising and can involve activities such as:
- a quick walk around the block
- getting a coffee or snack
- playing with a pet
- listening to a short piece of music
- chatting to a family member
- lying down
- watching TV or YouTube *
- using Facebook or other social platforms *
- phoning a friend *
*These activities are likely to drag on for much longer than 5 minutes!
Are you struggling to help your son or daughter to plan and get more organised for their VCE studies?
If so, VCE Coaching sessions with an experienced psychologist may help.
- Encourage them to utilise small blocks of time – for example, fitting in 30 minutes of study time between school and a work shift can mean getting to bed 30 minutes early.
- Help your teenager be REALISTIC about how much time they will spend on each activity. For example: is it realistic to say that they will only spend 10 minutes a day on Facebook ? If it’s not realistic, don’t put it in the schedule!
- Rewards are important. Encourage your teenager to manage their own rewards so they can feel in control. Some examples of meaningful rewards include more TV time, a special meal at the end of the week or inviting a friend over.
2. Create a study-friendly environment
- Ensure that your teenager has a quiet, tidy place to study away from distractions (such as pets, siblings or TV).
- Encourage your teenager to hand over their phone (gasp!) or any other potential distractor before sitting down to study. Remind them that they can lock the phone if worried about privacy.
- If possible, help your teenager create a “sanctuary” in their bedroom with motivating posters, a clean area to work that is separate from their bed.
- Discourage them from studying in bed. Firstly, they may fall asleep. Secondly, bed will cease to be as relaxing if it is associated with stressful activities.
- Discourage them from eating in their bedroom or place of study. Snack breaks are a good chance for them to get up, clear their head, talk to family members and take a real break.
3. A whole family affair
Encourage an ORGANISED household!
For a teenager to be organised they need the support of their parents and family members.
- Ensure that everyone in the family is aware of the schedule
- Set some ground rules for everyone to help.
- Use rewards for sticking to the routine.
- Consider a roster for the computer, iPad or TV.
- Also consider rosters for chores and cooking.
- Try to keep siblings and pets away from your VCE student while they are studying.
- Whenever possible, have dinner at around the same time each night.
- Keep household chores consistent so the teenager can fit these into their study schedule.
Schedules work better if all family members communicate.
Letting each other know if there you can see a disruption to the routine coming up can help to avoid disputes.
For example, if one of your children is away on school camp, decide in advance who will take over their chores.
If your son or daughter is finding it difficult to manage their time and study effectively they may benefit from some focused individual coaching sessions with an experienced psychologist.
4. Review the plan
Set reminders to review things at least once per term.
Ask your son or daughter:
- “Are you sticking to your study schedule?”
- “Are there any particular days of the week/times of day when you find it hard to stick to the plan?”
- “What can we do to help?”
- “What do you find yourself getting distracted by?”
- “Can we cut back on something?”
Finding the Right Balance
Being successful in VCE does NOT mean your son or daughter has to chain themselves to their desk for five hours per night.
In fact, research shows that the most successful students are those that also fit in extracurricular activities including time for relaxing and exercise.
Your child will be less stressed if they have a chance to enjoy other things in their life and aren’t focusing solely on study.
To help them have a BALANCED life:
- Encourage regular exercise. Exercise can help clear their mind, let off steam, socialise with friends, sleep better and focus on study. Not to mention, they will feel better about themselves.
- Encourage regular sleeping patterns. Teenagers need, on average, nine hours of sleep per night. This means that if they wake up at 7am, they should be in bed by 10pm. It is no good for them to have six hours sleep a night during the week and then try to catch up on the weekend.
- Eat regular meals – not at their desk. Eating meals with the family invites communication, allows them time to have a break and allows you to monitor how healthy their diet is.
- Invite them to spend time with the family. Family time is also important and, even though this can be a good time for communicating about the heavy stuff, you should also try to engage in some fun activities together that gives everyone a chance to let off steam. Think about what kinds of things you all like doing individually and see if you can turn any of those things into a group event.
- Allow for time with friends. Teenagers need time to just hang out with their friends, have a laugh, complain about school and simply be a kid. Making a deal with them about when they can see their friends can help to avoid disputes.
- Help them relax. Teenagers need some time to just chill out and be themselves (in moderation of course). Taking some time out to paint their toenails or just lie on their bed listening to music is okay from time-to-time.
- Make sure they are not working too much at their part-time job
- Make sure they are not studying for long periods without taking frequent short breaks
- Make sure they are not partying or socialising excessively
If you see that they are finding it hard to balance things, talk to them about whether they are taking on too much and ask them what they feel they could cut back on.
Review whether they have made the ‘right decision’ (that is, are they feeling better) after two weeks.
If you think they may be finding it hard to find the right balance during VCE, they may benefit from some independent professional help.