Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Family Lives - after the exams

Immediately after the hard work and pressure of exams, parents and young people may feel relieved and relaxed.
This may soon give way to an even more stressful period - waiting for and dealing with exam results. This stage can be more uncomfortable than the exams themselves because parents and young people feel helpless. Before or during the exams they could at least do something but now they can only wait.
Children may get caught up in endless repetitions of regret and recrimination, going over what they did or failed to do and how they might have done it differently.
Feeling on edge and unhappy is a natural response to the situation.  Don't walk around on eggshells. Instead, try to talk with your child about their feelings and the choices and options facing them.

Waiting for exam results

Have a conversation with your son or daughter to find out what their expectations are, and give them the reassurance that whatever the results, you are proud of them and will be encouraging them in the future.
If your child is applying for University, equip yourself with information about how to use the clearing system for UCAS (the admissions system for university) as there may be a lot of competition for places. 
If your child is hoping to go to college or sixth form, make sure you know who to call and have numbers to hand in case the grades are not quite what you were expecting. It is still worth having a conversation to see if the grades are close enough to get onto the course or a similar one. 

What to do if your child's exam results aren’t what you were expecting

Plan or have an event to mark the results. Celebrate the effort that went into them and make it clear that you love, respect and value your child for who they are, independent of their achievements. 
If the experience has been too stressful or their results were not what they hoped for, young people may feel like giving up as an immediate reaction. You may need to guide them firmly into going back to education and trying again. You do, however, have to keep a careful balance because young people sometimes have a better idea than their parents as to what is good for them. Don't push them unless it is clear it is towards something they want to do.
If you are worried you can pick up the phone to Family Lives, or contact us via email or live chat. You can ring confidentially 24 hours a day on 0808 800 2222 and we’ll support you at a time that you have to support your child.

Try to separate what you might have wished for yourself at their age from what they wish for themselves now. Support them in their dreams rather than pressurising them to do it for you. 

Recognise your own emotions. You may be moving on from being the parent of a child to an adolescent or towards the stage when they leave home entirely.  

Whatever pose they put on, your child cares deeply about their results and about your attitudes towards them. Encourage them to talk and reassure them that you are behind them and love them whatever the results. 

Have a contingency plan for if the results aren’t as good as you hoped

Know who to call at the school for advice or support. If your child had a place at college conditional on results, have a contact number - you can often negotiate on a lower grade. And know how to get in touch with UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admission Service) to find a place at another college if the first one falls through.

Put things into perspective. Everyone loses out at some time or other and failing an exam isn’t the end of the world. They can re-sit, using what they have learned this time round to do better or decide to go a different route next time. What is important is for you to look for positive ways forward, to consider all the options available and to be behind them 100%. 

Anticipate underlying problems that might have been put on the backburner during the exam period could suddenly emerge once the crisis is over. You may need to acknowledge what has been simmering under the surface for some time and address it, head on. 

If the experience has been too stressful or their results were not as good as they hoped; young people may be ready to give up at this stage. Parents may need to guide them firmly into going back to education and trying again. It's important to keep a careful balance. Young people sometimes have a better idea than their parents as to what is good for them. It's not helpful to push them to do something you did or wanted to do, rather than what is right for them.  

Parents and children need to communicate - and this means both talking and listening to each other. It might help to get an outsider such as a teacher, mediator, youth counsellor or mentor to help.