It never ceases to amaze me how much I still have to learn when it comes to raising young people. I can repeat a process time-and-time again and then suddenly have an epiphany about what really matters in a situation, or how it can be done better.
My youngest son just started his HSC exams this week and I had one of ‘those’ moments. Given it has taken me to my last child to get this right I thought I’d better pass it on as it is no longer useful to me. I love it when that happens!
I have walked several of my children through HSC. As a matter of fact my youngest daughter completed her HSC last year. She struggled with academia but worked incredibly hard to achieve a great result. This son, however, has a laid-back approach to life and all that comes with it. He is naturally quite bright and up until trial exams seemed largely unaffected by the pressure.
You can imagine my shock when he rang me after walking out of his English trial exam, having written nothing after being hit with his first panic attack. The build-up to the final exam this past Monday has, needless to say, been a little tense.
Throughout this tumultuous year, students are challenged in ways they’ve never been and will possibly never be again. They face fears they never knew existed and the level of expectation on them is at an all-new high. Throw in that mix a huge shift in interpersonal relationships as they simultaneously merge in to adulthood.
I have taken a similar approach with all my children when it comes to HSC exam time and the study period leading up. Relinquish them of household duties, apply just enough pressure to keep them diligent, counsel them day and night through rational and irrational fears and keep them well fed. This seemed to work well – or so I thought.
On Monday morning as I sat with my youngest son, talking to him as if we were about to step into the ring on the set of ‘Rocky’, the lightening bolt moment began. I have always told my kids that Year 12 results do not define them and that I am proud of them regardless of the result.
This time that tone of conversation went to another level. We talked about the success of Year 12 as being the completion of the actual process itself. I watched with fascination as the usual pre-exam tension began to fall away.
The defining moment was that he was here; in front of me, showing up, present, and ready to face his fears. In this courageous feat he was setting a precedent for how he would face challenges and fears in life.
I realised that the results were already in; my children were heroes in this exact moment. I didn’t and they didn’t need an independent assessor to calibrate their level of success or potential in life. They were already well on their way.
Needless to say with this in mind and potential failure no longer relevant, he overcame his anxiety and nailed his exam.
Oh to have figured this out 31 children ago!