As parents, we often share some of this stress! Stress can be helpful in moderation as it motivates us into action and helps us perform to our optimum level; however, too much stress or chronic stress can hamper our ability to concentrate and can lead to unhelpful behaviours such as procrastination (Centre for Emotional Health, 2017).

As parents we want our children to succeed, and it is natural to want to help them achieve their potential. Engineering our children's environment instead of managing it takes courage, as it allows for our children to fail and to tackle tasks in less efficient ways than we may like. Yet, by allowing our children to experience natural consequences such as forgetting school work, or trialling study methods that are ineffective promotes independence in their learning, resilience and self-reliance that builds transferable skills predictive of success later in life.

One inevitable part of schooling for students is experiencing academic pressures, either from themselves, parents or teachers. As they enter senior academy, this pressure can intensify, potentially resulting in students experiencing academic stress. Academic stress is defined as a “student's psychological state resulting from continuous social and self-imposed pressure”. Students experiencing academic stress typically encounter poor concentration, tiredness, difficulty retaining learned materials and expressing worries about their future (Noronha & Govindaraju, 2016). While common, it is related to anxiety and depression.

For students in senior years, a common worry is not getting into a desired course at university, while younger students who internalise high expectations or are exposed to a competitive learning environment are more likely to experience academic stress.Academic stress is predicted by perceived pressures of workload, parents and teachers’ expectations for performance, and longing for high academic achievement (Zimmer-Gemback et al., 2023). High-dosage tutoring (quantified as 90-minutes of private tutoring or three 30minute sessions, per week; Duke Social Science Research Institute (2022) has been related to inadequate sleep (Deb et al., 2015), somatic symptoms, and emotional distress (Noh et al., 2020). Thus, contrary to intention high dosage tutoring can increase daytime sleepiness that negatively impacts school performance. Furthermore, high-dosage tutoring likely comes at the sacrifice of pursuing other interests that bring joy, tying one's identity to academic performance. Consequently, this limits the development of broader interpersonal skills, opportunities for positive affect, and self-acceptance that can lead to psychological distress, and hinder future outcomes.

As a parent, try to emphasise the importance of consistent hard work over last-minute panic.

Research has shown that promoting emotional support (Fuentes & Sancerni, 2018), a healthy lifestyle, and a balance of social interactions buffer student’s perception of academic stress (Deb et al, 2015). For example, participating in extra-curricular activities mediates academic stress (Deb et al., 2015). Also, Lin and Yusoff (2013) found that students experienced higher stress levels when they lacked positive attention from parents outside of academics and performance. By focusing on praising the processes (effort, intention) and encouraging a balanced lifestyle, will upskill our children to value good health, foster positive relationships, and a positive self-concept that promotes a “can-try" outlook, all predictive of resilience and success.

Try this:

  • Encourage positive coping strategies, such as chunking assignments into bullet points and allocating time each week to work on each chunk towards their assignments.
  • Look for the positive traits/skills demonstrated (for example, organisation, preparation, attention to schoolwork) and praise/reward them at given opportunities (valuing the process > performance)
  • Healthy Balance –  Encourage your child to have develop a healthy routine around realistic study times, including time to wind-down (leisure activities), socialising, physical activity, and sleep. 
  • Help your son prepare for his exams by encouraging him to create a study schedule:
    • Start by scheduling in all fixed appointments and classes, including school, sleep and meals.
    • Look for usable gaps in your day where you will be in an appropriate setting to study.
    • List all tasks which need to be completed for each subject and estimate how long each task will take. Write these into your timetable.
    • Ensure the schedule is realistic and includes regular breaks.
  • Perspective and the “Bigger Picture” –  As a parent, try to emphasise the importance of consistent hard work over last-minute panic, and provide a clear message that your son’s wellbeing is a priority.  Remind your child that while assessment and exam results matter, keeping perspective and focusing on holistic wellbeing is important.  Help your child to reflect on what else is important in their life – for example, their values, character and relationships. 

  • Show interest in your son’s interests, friends, hobbies and schooling (emphasising their value beyond academic performance).

Further Resources

  • Mr David Schofield (Head of School Psychology), Mr Sam White (previous Head of Student Development Stage 6) and Ms Linda Gomez (Director of Career Education and Development) have produced a video on ATAR perspective: