This Friday marks a very special day for our graduating year 12 students. Having spent more than 2/3 of their young lives at school, on Friday, they say farewell and start the transition to the next season of life. Like all changes, there are multiple sides. Change can be exciting, scary and stressful at the same time. As they wait to hear news of their future options, some may start to feel quite stressed.

For the past 13 years, most students have felt reasonably secure. School provides lots of structure in a person’s life and might be described as being fairly predictable, whereas once you leave, all of that structure is gone and there’s a lot of change and uncertainty. Some will be waiting for news of school results and OPs to determine the next step of their life journey. There are a lot of decisions to make. Is it better to continue straight onto university or other training? What if I don’t get the OP I need? Is it better to get a job or take a gap year? If they continue onto further education, there’s the long wait until things start up next year. If the decision is to take a gap year, what’s that going to look like? How will it be funded? Life after year 12 can be full of uncertainty.

Leaving school has been likened to breaking up with a season of a person’s life or breaking up with a version of themselves. When you’re in year 12, you’re the oldest and most mature students in the school, and you know your place in the ‘culture’ whereas leaving suddenly changes things. You’re the youngest and least experienced in a workplace or university. Students who have performed very well academically, may find they’re in a course where their marks are now average among their peers. Whereas school has a start and finish time, university doesn’t. This along with the number of other students and even the logistics of getting to lectures on time in different places might lead to some people feeling overwhelmed. In school, teachers motivate students to hand in work on time, whereas in University more self-motivation is required.

Change is inherent to life and this change will be the first of many transitions into adulthood and all the responsibility that comes with that. As parents, we want our children’s lives to run smoothly, but that’s not always the best thing for them. If they are feeling stressed, we can remind them that they will find a way to cope with the new uncertainty in their lives and they will overcome the challenges. Those who’ve gone before them have, and they have the skills to do so. Change is exciting, necessary and something to be embraced.

Next week, we will look at what happens when things don’t go to plan.