VCE advice for parents

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How can parents help their teenager cope in VCE?

VCE is a tough time for your daughter/son and it is important that you participate in the journey.  As a former VCE student, completing my studies in 2004, I am able to share with you some first hand experiences of the journey.

I headed into VCE without much knowledge of what to expect – my parents (both Polish) did know much about the VCE system and therefore we were unsure of what to expect. As I moved through year 11, I regularly communicated to my parents about the VCE system and they become increasingly involved in my studies – which was great because I felt that I always had someone to talk to about my worries and problems.

Below are suggestions of how you, as a parent of a VCE student, can help them to remain focused, motivated and “sane” throughout their VCE year. Parental support is a very important factor in the life of a VCE student and can have a big influence on the ATAR score!

(1) Understand what your teenager is going through within their VCE year.

To be a true support, understand what your teenager is going through. Do your best to empathise with their situation  – remember that VCE students really do have it tough! Studying is not an easy task –especially when you know that about are competing against 55,000 students for a top ATAR score! In VCE studies it is at times difficult to remain motivated because times do get intense and stressful – therefore it is important to ensure that you are not too tough on your teenager throughout this time.

(2) Recommend that your teenager has hobbies and fun throughout the VCE.

Yes, VCE is an important year – and no doubt you have spent a lot of time and money ensuring that your child succeeds in school! However remember to ensure that your daughter/son still has some spare time to do those things that young people enjoy. For example allow your teenager to go out with friends, or to the beach or out shopping! Remember that studying is most effective when your daughter/son has a harmonious balance between responsibility and entertainment.

From personal experience I have noticed that the best students are the ones that still have a life outside VCE. The generally continue their participation in sports, take up leadership positions in their school and have a social life too. Why is this so important?

Once your teenagers steps outside the realms of their school, and the security it offers, they will be flooded with different types of responsibilities … your ex-VCE student will now be expected to balance their lives in such a way to find time for many different activities. This may include going to university, buying a car, paying for a lot more bills, renting or purchasing a home, working, starting a business … the list goes on and on… What is important is that they learn how to lead a reasonably balanced life in their VCE, because this is a great “mini-life-simulator”. Allow your teenager to lead a balanced life – you will only be doing them a favour!

(3) Learn about the VCE system, and show your interest/support.

We recommend that you learn about the VCE system so that you can understand what your teenager is going through. This why it makes the communication a lot better – if your teenager knows that you understand what they are talking about, chances are that they will open up if something is bothering them.

Be interested in the VCE subjects they are studying and know how your teenager feels about them. If they are really struggling in a subject, talk to the teachers by setting up a meeting. VCE teachers are generally very willing to speak to concerned parents about how their child is performing in a subject. They are usually happy to spend extra time with the student, during lunch time or after school to help them improve.

You can also consider the Academy Plus tutoring service, which has a trustworthy reputation among school teachers, Victoria wide. Before hiring a VCE tutor make sure that you read our articles on this topic so that you avoid costly mistakes in choosing the right tutor.

Most importantly always be there emotionally for you child – I know as a former VCE student, my parents were very supportive during my VCE journey. They were there for me during my ups and downs; they financed my tutoring and drove me all over Melbourne so that I could receive high quality tutoring. Whenever I look back, I will be forever grateful to them my parents’ support because without it, I don’t know whether I could cope with the mental stress of VCE.

(4) Know the warning signs.

VCE students are normally stressed out – this is the norm to expect. Unfortunately there are times when you need to decide – is it just stress? Or is it something else?  If your teenager’s behaviour has dramatically changed throughout the VCE then do not take your chance, speak to the school about your concerns. Schools have very capable counsellors that are able to help students overcome difficulties in their lives. Academy Plus also has counsellors that can work with your child to overcome common problems such as depression, anxiety, uncontrollable stress, panic attacks and other issues that a VCE student may face. Sometimes students or parents do not like to be involved with internal (school counsellors) due to personal reasons and therefore external counselling services is recommended.

(5) Reward your teenager within their VCE journey.

If your teenager is really working hard and getting tired/grumpy – reward them so that they feel inspired and energetic again. This does not need to be a “big deal” – I recall from my VCE that my mum would sometimes bring me some KFC when she picked me up from the train station, and it really made my day… I still remember it 7 years later! Sometimes it is the small, nice gestures that really count and eventually have a big impact.

Other things that my mum used to do is to buy me a new novel when she saw that I was getting frustrated or she would watch a movie with me and just keep me company when I was feeling down. This really helped – there were countless things that she did throughout my VCE, but most importantly she was there.

Another important concept to consider is a reward at the end of the VCE journey. Maybe you can buy your teenager a trip interstate or overseas? Maybe a new Mac? Maybe fund the schoolies (or not)? Maybe a new car? This is dependent on budget, but remember that it gives great motivation for your teenager to stay consistent and “sane” throughout their VCE journey. My prize for the completion of VCE was a trip to the USA and Poland … this kept me motivated and always reminded me that there is “light at the end of the tunnel”. My current motivation (to finish Engineering) is that one of my favourite aunties from Poland will come over and we will have a huge graduation party I guess for people that have had the pleasure of studying engineering, know exactly why there much be a reward at the completion of the degree.

There is a lot more advice that parents of VCE students should consider and think about. I recommend that you go through the Academy Plus website and read information about the VCE … you may even want to join our 100% free VCE forum where you have the opportunity to talk to other parents about the VCE system and about general advice concerning the VCE.