As promised we have a bumper set of education related posts today. Earlier we heard about the early years, and here Dilys Morgan offers you some advice on how best to support young people, who will tomorrow be getting their A Level results. You may find that you are more nervous than they are. The important thing is to stay supportive and non judgemental.
It’s a big week for our young people who’ve taken their A levels. Results day is often a nightmare for families as the tension builds and the young people have to turn up at school, or phone in, to find out their grades.
Young people usually have their own anxieties and tensions around this – and so one of the best things parents can do to help and support them is to keep their own concerns out of the equation.
So, although this can be a hard time for parents, having to sit on the sidelines and watch while their offspring go through huge emotional turmoil, we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that this is their time to be worried and that they don’t need our worries added to theirs.
The tension tends to build as the date nears – so what’s the best we can do to help them at this time? First of all, families need to relax and take off any pressure. Young people don’t need nagging to find out their results: let them do it in their own time. When they do choose to tell you the results, try hard not to put your own feelings/judgements on to their own reactions. In other words, let them have their moment.
This ‘moment’ is all important because their instinctive reaction to their results is will be their true feeling. So whether they’re up or down, just observe and be on hand with hugs or an arm around the shoulders - and try to reflect their mood.
They may be elated and excited by a result that is below your expectations…..in which case try hard not to let your disappointment show. Or they may have exceeded all expectations…..so it’ll be fun for you all to celebrate. But, if they’ve not come up to their own and your expectations, it’s really important that you let them go through their own disappointment without sharing yours with them too. They’ll be feeling bad enough anyway.
On the other hand, don’t try to give them a false boost by jollying them out of their bad feelings. Disappointment is part of life and they need to know what it feels like. The Olympics has provided us with a good example of how it’s possible for even high achievers to be disappointed with say, a silver or bronze medal, if in their minds, they were aiming only for gold.
So let them be down for as long as it takes. They may experience their disappointment like a form of grief – and they are grieving really, for the loss of their dreams, hopes and expectations. And any loss takes time to get over – so it’s important they have the time and space to acknowledge their bad feelings. They may feel really fed up with themselves, and want to kick themselves for not doing better. So you may find them moody and angry at this time.
Talking can help, but it can be difficult knowing who to talk to. They may have friends who’ve done better, or worse than themselves and this can inhibit their conversations. If they won’t talk to you, and seem to be having difficulty getting over their disappointment, suggest they find a suitable outsider – possibly a counsellor – who’ll allow them the space to talk everything over and help them come to terms with their disappointment and move on.
Resist at all costs telling them how they should be feeling – for that drives most people mad! Saying ‘You should be proud of yourself’ if they feel they’ve let themselves down will cut no ice with them and certainly not make them feel any better.
If you know they tried their hardest, then you can help by reassuring them that you know they simply could not have done more. If, on the other hand, you know that they didn’t give these exams their all, then now is probably not the best time to say so. They will know, they’ll be fully aware of their own responsibility and they’ll feel they’ve let themselves down without needing you to remind them, or reinforce it, or make them feel even worse.
What you can do though is reassure them that this isn’t the end of the world – there are always retakes or different courses to choose. Also let them know that there is more to life than exam results – that they are more than the sum of their grades. So remind them of all their good qualities, their nice natures and personalities -and how much they’re loved and appreciated simply for being themselves.
And then offer them as much practical help as you can in getting on with university applications or retakes. Don’t do it for them – they need this period of adjustment and application to help them see that there is a way out of life’s difficulties. But be there alongside them, encouraging them and making cups of coffee while they do whatever’s necessary to get back on track.
For information on A Level reults you can find Dilys on Twitter.
You can also contact her through Greatvine for individual and confidential advice.