• Diane Masters

Success or Failure – how to deal with exam results

As the clock ticks down to results day, the wait is almost over. There’s a lot riding on getting the right grades, maybe for a course or job. And according to the Childline advisory line, exam stress is on the increase.

I remember waiting for my A level results, feeling anxious, knowing each day was one day closer to the envelope dropping through the door. Would all the hard work pay off or would it bring a day of disappointment? It’s a stressful time. And not only for students but also for parents, who hope all will be well for their teens.

Planning for results day

Although it may seem pessimistic, having a Plan B will make it easier to take quick action on the day. So, take time to have other options ready if the results aren’t what is needed for Plan A.

On the day

Results day itself is likely to be one of mixed emotions – highs for some and huge disappointment for others. For those who get the grades, it’ll be a wonderful time of celebration with family and friends. For others, it can feel like the end of the world.

If your child doesn’t get the grades (and I was one of those children, and I remember only too well how it feels), you may be disappointed - but now is not the time to be putting your disappointment on to them. Reading my results, it felt as though my world had fallen apart. And I then had to face friends who were celebrating their results and wanting to know how I’d done. I just wanted to run away and hide.

It won’t be an easy day, but your child needs you there being fully supportive, positive and encouraging, whatever the results.

The role of the parent

Along with the disappointment, panic is likely to be one of the first reactions. Panic about what to do, what the options are and how to go about sorting everything out. Although some decisions will need to be acted on quickly, such as going through clearing, try to resist a knee jerk reaction and take time to think everything through. If you are calm, your child will feel reassured.

For now, exam disappointment brings with it a loss of plans and dreams, but it’s important for your teen to see that exams don’t define who they are. Many people end up following a career path they’d never have considered, like taking a gap year, another course, or training in something completely different, which has turned out to be a much more suitable path than the one they’d originally planned.

There are other opportunities and choices. It’s all about mindset as well. Getting back up and looking for positive ways forward.

So, what’s the best help parents can give?

1. Be supportive, whatever the envelope contains

2. Be calm

3. Help your child to explore other options. They may be reticent and feel it’s pointless, but with your help they will be able to see that there are other paths available to them

4. Be practical, helping them to navigate the immediate challenges. But don’t take over

Exams are not the only key to future success and disappointing results now won’t prevent your teenager from living a happy and fulfilled life. It’s important not to blow the importance of exam results out of proportion.

If you or your child are struggling to come to terms with one of life’s unexpected setbacks, then coaching can be an excellent way of gaining clarity and direction.

Good luck to everyone

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