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How to help your teen on their study journey without being a helicopter parent

01/07/2022 |

Are you trying to walk the tightrope between being a supportive parent and not stepping on your teenager’s toes as they face big decisions around university and their future? The way to anyone’s heart is through their stomach, and it can also be an easy way to support your teen through stressful times. For Julian, he remembers studying for Year 12 exams and the best part was his dad Joe bringing him snacks to help him get through. The support from Joe didn’t stop there – he was Julian’s biggest cheerleader and soundboard while encouraging him to follow his passions. We sat down with Julian and Joe to hear about how to approach choosing what to study and how important it is to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. 

The takeout? The best thing you can do as a parent is provide a safe and supportive environment for your teenager when they are feeling the pressures during their time at high school and beyond. You might be watching them struggling with exam stress, or decision fatigue but unfortunately you can’t do these things for them. What you can do is be there for them, whether they need a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear or even a snack – like Joe would bring Julian when he was studying.


Julian studying with snacks

"You can't do anything except support and cheer them on. So I found it quite frustrating because I wanted to do more for him. All I had to say to him was, we're here for you, whatever we can do, just call on us. But what I realised is that he's actually quite independent. He's always been that way. He likes finding his own way. And that's something that I'm proud of about him."

Joe, Julian's dad

Navigating the jump from high school to uni can be a learning opportunity for both you and your teenager. Your teenager might not know exactly what they want to study and it’s important to open up a conversation to listen to their interests. It’s sometimes easier to fall back on what you’re familiar with, but it’s better to avoid choosing for them. For Julian, he found it helped to seek advice from Joe when deciding on his degree, but ultimately he followed his passions. He told us, “When I was deciding on what degree to study, I had two very big interests in sport and business but I didn’t know which one to do. Dad gave me advice to speak to friends and peers that have done similar studies. I made a decision by listening to my gut and doing my research.”

Students studying in library with parent

Once your teenager has started uni, there will be more decision making around their study and career journey. For Julian, there was always reassuring advice from Joe, "you can change and you can switch things, it doesn’t have to be right first off”. Which is true about all things in life, especially at uni. At UWA, your child will have the opportunity to speak to a Career Adviser if at any point they need help with deciding if the path they're on is right for them, or if they need to change things up. Sharon Woodfield, UWA Career Adviser says that parents can offer support in many ways, but they need to trust the timing.

“Your child might not be on the same timeline as you, but with your support they’ll get to their destination when they’re ready.”


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