Listen: Collett Smart chats to Katrina Roe
It’s been a strange year for all Australian school students, but probably none have been affected more than those in Year 12.
Months of coronavirus lockdown have interrupted their education, they’re facing a shaky job market, and there’s uncertainty hanging over university entries for 2021.
And then there are the social outings and rites of passage they’re missing: the swimming and athletics carnivals, the beach days, the road trips, the school dances and 18th birthday parties—and no-one’s sure yet if a graduation ceremony or Year 12 formal will even be possible .
As NSW students head back to school full time on Monday May 25, year 12 students will be feeling a wide range of different emotions, said adolescent psychologist and school counsellor Collett Smart.
“As a school counselor for years, I can kind of predict a whole bunch of scenarios,” she told Katrina Roe on Hope Mornings.
“Some will have hated the lockdown and can’t wait to get back to school and seeing their friends. Others will actually have done quite well without all the social interaction and got on with online learning, so they’ll be kind of a little bit sad to have the change.
“Again, some haven’t had great Wi Fi access, we’ve seen, you know, students in country towns that are very concerned about the equity of what the HSC will look like.
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“Some students are worried now that ‘When I get back, the HSC push is going to hit again’… others will be glad to be away from some unrealistic parental pressure that happened during lockdown. So you know, it’s going to be quite mixed.”
Information Will Help With the Uncertainty
Collett said that the constant uncertainty will be having a big impact on students, and parents and the school community need to do everything they can to help them feel supported and informed.
“There are things that schools can do,” she said. “My daughter’s school is having a ‘Welcome back, socially distanced afternoon tea’ for year 12 on Friday, to [give them] an easy relaxed way for them [to return to school life] before they start next week.
“And there’s a public school in Sydney that has just been brilliant at already sending [Year 12 students] updates on TAFE info and uni info. And also, they’ve already got an assessment schedule and an updated trial schedule.
“So I think parents, if you’re not happy with your school’s amount of communication, you need to speak up.
“Knowledge takes away some of the unknown. Knowing schedules and so on can give the students a little bit of a sense of control in what’s still largely not in our control.”
Giving Year 12 Students Hope for the Future
While many students may be struggling emotionally, there are steps parents can take to support them, and help them to take a more positive outlook.
1 – Listen to What They’re Feeling
When teenagers are struggling emotionally, they can tend to withdraw, and even more so if they feel there are no adults who will listen to them. Spend time with your teen, and when they are ready to talk, simply listen.
“This term, they are going to find things difficult and tricky,” Collett said. “And some days are going to be exhausting. So [they need] lots of listening.”
2 – Remind Them There Are Many Paths to Uni Study
For those who are worried about how their ATAR will be affected by the interruption to their studies, remind them there are many pathways to university study.
”I actually work at a uni, I teach undergrads in Foundation Studies, and so we know that in unis only approximately a quarter of uni students get in via their ATAR,” Collett said. “There are so many pathways… Highlight that.”
3 – Show Them That University Isn’t The Only Way
Some students will be unsure if they’ve got what it takes to go to university, and wondering what this means for their future. Remind them that university isn’t their only option. Help them to consider the many different career paths that don’t require a degree.
“Highlight the fact that there’s never been a better time to be a tradesperson,” Collett said. “It’s that group of people, the tradies, who are the ones who are employed in a lot of areas [right now]. It’s a great area to highlight for our kids.”
4 – Help Them Dream
For those who feel like all the colour has gone out of their life at the moment, it’s important to help them dream about the future, and the things they love to do.
“What we do in therapy, we do things like create a vision board or a journal,” Collett said. “Dream about realistic ideals for what your year might look like next year. If the travel bans are lifted internationally, would you take a gap year… Would you travel around Australia with some of your friends?”
Parents and mentors have a powerful role to play in helping young people to see the positive.
“We must give our children hope and we must allow them to dream, and let them know this won’t last forever,” Collett said. “Their life isn’t over, and there’s still so much to be excited about and so much to enjoy in their lives.”