The parent’s guide to surviving exam results…
...because it's not just the kids who will be bricking it on the GCSE and A level results days this year, right?
If you have children of secondary school age, you’ll know that the A-level results are out Tuesday 10 August and then Thursday 12 August, it’s D-Day for GCSE students. You may be sitting at home, trying to keep a satisfied smile off your face (in which case may I suggest you stay indoors until September?). Most likely, you’ll be biting your nails and nervously eyeing the drinks trolley, hoping that all those hours your darling child spent in their bedroom ‘studying’ wasn’t in fact a six-month multi-player battle on Fortnite.
Unfortunately, you can’t tamper with the grades or yell “FAKE NEWS!” when your child sheepishly hands you their results sheet. You can, however, control your own emotions and how you react. Here’s our Parents’ Guide to Surviving Exam Results and doing the right thing by your kids, with thanks to the local professionals who actually know what they’re talking about.
Control your disappointment
“If your child comes home with worse than expected results, the chances are they’ll be bothered by them, even if they’re not showing it. You may also be feeling pain, frustration, anxiety or anger, but stop and ask yourself: ‘Is this helpful how I’m about to respond right now?’, ‘Is this a real crisis or am I catastrophising?’ If your mind is telling you that this is a disaster or difficult, it’s because a core value that you uphold – for example, wanting the best for your children; worries about financial security; or social anxiety associated with their ‘failure’ – has come under stress. I’d suggest reading two books by Dr Russ Harris – The Happiness Gap and The Confidence Gap – both of which offer a number of techniques to rein in your mind and not act on your own anxieties, and will help you not to shoot the messenger! When you’re 80 years old and reflecting on your life, do you think your child’s A-level results will feature highly in your memory? Or that high A-level grades predict happiness in your child’s 40s and 50s? If the answer is no, pause for a moment – recognise that your ‘evolutionary’ mind is warning you of something dangerous (which is fine) but that you don’t need to react to that perceived threat at that moment. A perspective shift is helpful in these cases and the chances are that a few hours later, or by the next morning, things will be a bit less raw.”Dr Kai Thilo, chartered and registered clinical psychologist and partner at Oxford Talking Therapies.
It’s OK for them to be grumpy
“If your child has had a bad set of exam results and is is angry, grumpy, a bit rude or non-communicative, try not to take it personally – half the time this is just normal adolescent behaviour anyway. Give your child some space to come to terms with their results and acknowledge that it’s a difficult time for them. They will be speaking to their friends and will probably turn to them for support as much as you. So, if they’re on their phone all the time try not to get frustrated – hard though it is for us, this is how young people relate to and connect with others. They’re not necessarily playing computer games and zoning out.
“If you are finding it hard to talk to an uncommunicative or difficult offspring, find another way to show unconditional love so that they feel supported at home. It might just be making a dessert they like, buying them something special, making an effort to not force a conversation they don’t want to have. Adolescence is period of readjustment for the whole family and when bad exam results also enter the picture, it can feel even more complicated – perhaps both parents and child will be thinking: ‘What will they do?’, ‘Where will they go?’ Usually, it’s not the end of the world and new doors open as others shut. If the teenage grumpiness and anger develops into something more serious – perhaps they begin to isolate themselves from their peers, sleep badly, lose weight or start behaving in an uncharacteristically listless way, this is when the alarm bells should ring. Otherwise, show them you love them regardless of manners, exam results and their behaviour around the house and it will be all right.”
Jane Barker, pyschotherapist and counsellor, Thame Therapy Clinic
Hatch a plan
“There are plenty of other options out there if your child hasn’t managed the grades they were hoping for. Firstly, re-sits: if your child wasn’t far off the grades they were hoping for, you can request for your papers to be remarked. You do have to pay but you’ll receive a full refund if you find that the mark has changed. It may be possible for your child to re-sit straight away, depending on the education board. Other options? Apprenticeships are considered a real job. Employers respect them, and it’s more likely a job will be offered by the same employer after completing an apprenticeship. Traineeships last from six weeks to six months, and can be an ideal opportunity for young people motivated to get a job/apprenticeship but who lack the skills and experience employers are looking for. Gap years can be a great option for self-development and experience and there are plenty of paid options, from camps in America to work on farms in Australia.”
Kris Hunt, Not Going To Uni.
Get clued up
It might well be that sparkling A-Level results are not required for the corner of the job market where your child will thrive. But it’s not easy as a parent to navigate the enormous (and rapidly changing) world of paid employment when you’ve been beavering away in corporate accounting for 24 years. So bring in the professionals. Careers Collective is a group of experienced, independent careers consultants who offer coaching, online and face-to-face workshops and downloadable guidance to help steer children and graduates towards a happy and productive working life.
Consider a helping hand
Gaps in education and dreaded subjects (mine was physics – eugh!) can often be responsible for pulling down results from good to average. So there’s absolutely no harm in doing something about it before those sticking points get inked down on a grades certificate. Interhigh is an online school that works with kids form ages seven to 18 and can offer bespoke solutions to specific issues and can work very effectively alongside regular education.
Hit the botanicals
Is there any problem that has not been solved by a stiff local artisan gin and a hulk of ice? Not in my experience, sister. Take the edge off with Tiptree’s Essex-grown English Damson Gin Liqueur and a dash of prosecco – if you really go for it, you might just manage to wipe the exam grades from your mind entirely!