On Thursday 17th August pupils will receive their A-level results, the following week on 24th August secondary school pupils open their GCSE results. This can be a stressful time for teenagers who need to meet certain grades for university entry. Yvonne Kekeliadis, CEO and founder of Brightstarz has shared some tips on how parents can help their children in the lead up to opening their results.
For many young people, a summer of sun and fun might be overshadowed by the impending prospect of receiving exam results. Whilst GCSE and A-level results days are often eagerly anticipated as a symbol of embarking upon the next steps of the educational journey, it can also be a time of acute anxiety and insecurity. Young people are often overwhelmed by the weight of expectations, both their own and those of their loved ones; in fact, almost half of young people responding to the 2022 Youth Voice Census said that exams and assessments have a negative impact on their mental health.
Creating a supportive atmosphere for your young person during this challenging period of their lives is paramount in ensuring they have the skills to cope. Not only will this help them overcome the potentially agonising wait for their results, it will also equip them with the strength and resilience to navigate challenging situations they may encounter later in life and help them grow into happy, well-adjusted adults.
Don’t be dismissive
Reassurance can sometimes tip over into dismissiveness; it can be an invalidating experience for your teen to hear that this is simply an experience that ‘everybody goes through’ and that they should simply ‘suck it up’, or similar sentiments. Equally, hearing people say they will be ‘fine’ – or worse, that they should have worked harder – can be a frustrating experience, as it can add to the sense of powerlessness they may be feeling.
Let your teen know that it is completely normal – and indeed, expected – to feel some degree of nerves as they await their results. Give them space to voice their worries and listen to their concerns. It can be easy to forget that this may be the first time they are going through this experience, particularly if you have older children who have already sat important exams. Make sure they know you are there to support them, and as far as possible, acknowledge their fears whilst debunking any misconceptions they may have.
Preparation is key
Part of supporting your child through this moment of worry is helping them plan effectively for what happens during and after results day. Encourage them to explore their options ahead of time – this can mean double checking entry requirements, considering university clearing and even thinking about alternative educational pathways. Seeking out careers guidance resources is critical; a good first point of call for your child is the school’s guidance counsellor, who will be well-placed to explain the multitude of options open to them. Work with your child to come up with a potential plan (or several plans) in case results day doesn’t go as expected; this can calm their nerves ahead of time and can even prevent panicked decisions being made in haste on the day.
Encouraging wellbeing activities
Summertime is the perfect time for your child to take part in so many of the activities that will support their wellbeing – spending plenty of time outdoors, catching up with friends and loved ones, and even trying new hobbies, all of which will contribute to positive emotions and bolster their self-esteem. Help your teen maintain healthy routines and habits around sleep and diet, which can all too easily fall by the wayside during times of stress.
This is also a wonderful opportunity to support your child by incorporating mindfulness practices into their routine. For example, there are numerous breathing techniques which reduce stress in moments of acute anxiety. A key example is the well-known STOP method, which requires a person to stop what they are doing, take a breath and focus on their physical surroundings. This is a grounding activity, which will help your child to overcome any panic they are feeling and instead focus on calmer thoughts and actions they can take to feel better.
Focus on the bigger picture
Remind your child that they have achieved so much throughout their educational journeys so far, and regardless of the outcome, you are proud of what they have learnt and accomplished. Exam results are one narrow metric of these achievements, and don’t encompass all the ways they have grown. Rather than focusing on one final grade, encourage them to view their progress at school in its totality as a process through which they have made friends, tried new sports and activities and learnt about their favourite subjects. Help your child to celebrate the process of their hard work, and above all, remind them that their results do not define who they are.