Exams are often stressful, but waiting on results and then dealing with the outcome can also be just as stressful for not only young people but parents too.
With that in mind, it is important to note that in the majority of instances children/ young people in Northern Ireland do pass their exams, so it is important not to be too concerned until you know the outcome. Last year, 81.1% of children doing GCSEs achieved A*-C grades. For A-Levels, 84.5% achieved at least a C grade.
It is important to take time to read the results document thoroughly. GCSE grades changed last year, and often the results papers are confusing. If you have any doubts about the results, ask a teacher or professional who is familiar with them to confirm.
If exams are considered quite important, how can parents prepare for results? How can they help their children if they do not get the results they want? Parents have the benefit of a wider depth of experience, parents can reassure a teenager who might struggle to see beyond the result itself and help them consider the many paths that might be an option e.g. return to school, college, apprenticeship, university, work etc.
Less positive results might mean that they are unable to continue on the path they had seen themselves on. They may no longer be able to attend the same school. They may be worried about losing touch with friends, falling behind or being seen as a “failure”. It is important that parents provide them with emotional comfort right away after getting results that they feel are disappointing.
Parents can be an important emotional support for a young person who is unsure of how to react to bad news. BBC Newsbeat suggests a number of ways to handle poor results for young people, many of which can be applied equally to parents:
Find someone to talk to. This may be you as a parent, but be open to the chance that they will want to talk to someone more “neutral”;
Ignore the “noise”. When you get your results, open them in private and do not immediately compare yourself to your friends. Remember that each teenager is an individual, and what is “good” or “bad” for them varies. As such, a happy or unhappy child did not necessarily do “better” or “worse” than your own;
“Move On” it is important for young people to understand that while exams feel very final, life does indeed go on;
Be careful sharing the news. Only do so with people you know will be supportive, as anyone else may impact your teenager’s mental health.
The best time to discuss the future is when you have both had reasonable time to digest the implications. Once that is the case, you can sit down with your teenager and whoever else you might find helpful to plan. Keep in mind that it may be useful for both you and your teenager to seek out advice about next steps. This might be together, and it may be better apart. There are a number of organisations or people who can provide support;
* The Schools careers advisory service, if they are available;
* The Careers Service (available here);
* A trusted friend;
* A community worker;
* The Apprenticeships service (available here);
* Your local regional college.
In conclusion, it is important for parents to:
* Remain calm in the event of disappointing results;
* Reassure young people as they process the meaning of their results;
* Give context and perspective about what it means for the future;
* Provide help and support in a new path.
You can listen to our podcast episode on this topic or download the full article below.