Year 12 is over for your child. But there are still some things to keep in mind. Psychologist Judith Locke has some tips for navigating this territory.
Year 12 is over for your child. But there are still some things to keep in mind. Psychologist Judith Locke has some tips for navigating this territory.

How to help kids adjust to life after school

So, Year 12 is over for your child - who is turning into an old girl or old boy of their school around this time.

How's that for an ageing process!

But, is all of the difficulty over, or are there still some things you have to keep in mind and look out for?

Readers might be surprised that one of my busiest times for seeing Year 12 or university students is in late November and early December.

You'd think that period would be the time of their lives - they're finished study, and free to do whatever they want. They should be relaxing, and yet it is often a time of lower mood for some. So, what gives?

Year 12 and their university years are often filled with major highs and lows.

They've got through the workload, got through their crazy study timetable, managed exams, then partied and celebrated with their peers.

Sure, the Year 12 homework might be over, but that doesn’t necessarily mean things are free and easy. Picture: istock
Sure, the Year 12 homework might be over, but that doesn’t necessarily mean things are free and easy. Picture: istock

Your senior student might soon receive their final Year 12 results, university placement, and then they will just wait. University students might have a whole three months of holidays to do whatever they want.

But the problem is after all that excitement, suddenly things can become very quiet and the teen or adult suddenly has nothing to do. That free time can produce a whole range of problems for the person with a mind that tends toward anxiety or depression.

When life is busy, it is very easy to put all of your energy into tasks at hand.

Sometimes anxious people are never feeling better about things than when they have urgent things to do. That's because their worries are all channelled into their pressing responsibilities.

In these times, if they have any feelings of fear, there will be a really good reason for them, 'Of course I am worried, I have exams next week'.

When you take away all of their challenges, their underlying anxious tendencies sometimes have no place to go to.

Suddenly, they can start to obsess easily over very minor things - just to channel their constant apprehension into something. They might fixate over the inconsequential thing their friend said or be excessively worried about their social standing.

Your senior student might soon receive their final Year 12 results, university placement, and then they will just wait. Picture: iStock
Your senior student might soon receive their final Year 12 results, university placement, and then they will just wait. Picture: iStock

These fears might get out of hand easily and they can start to think, 'What is wrong with me? The tricky part is over and yet I don't feel great.'

Even people who are prone to melancholy, might have nowhere to put all the slightly sad feelings they waved away a month ago as being due to studying so much and not having fun. If they still are having those feelings that's going to make them feel worse and think there is something wrong with them.

Many parents aren't as much on the lookout for their teen or young adult in these free times, but I urge you to keep an eye on them and see how your child is going.

Make sure they are busy enough so that they don't have endless amounts of thinking time. Don't allow the days to stretch endlessly for them to be just sitting in front of the TV or on the computer.

And if they do report heightened anxiety or depression? Get them to go and see a clinical psychologist.

Don't let them stop therapy as soon as they feel slightly good. One of the biggest frustrations for psychologists is that clients cancel as soon as the situation or feeling goes away.

When the exam pressure is off, underlying anxious tendencies sometimes have no place to go. Picture: iStock
When the exam pressure is off, underlying anxious tendencies sometimes have no place to go. Picture: iStock

Remember, therapy is often even more effective when you tackle unhelpful behaviours and thoughts when feelings aren't as intense. Unless clients learn techniques on how to manage these tendencies now, they will likely come back.

So, if your child does need help, get them to take a few weeks to learn the skills to reap the benefits when things become busy again.

Have a young adult about to go on extended holidays?

● Ideally, they should get a part-time job to keep them busy. A full-time holiday job is ideal, particularly if they are saving for something.

● If they can't get a part-time job, keep them busy. Get them to tackle the mess in the garage or spare room or do some gardening.

● Give them daily chores they have to do. If they are over 18, technically they should be doing as many chores as you are. Have them cook meals, clean areas, do the washing on a daily basis, and regularly contribute to the household.