The waiting is over and those much-anticipated exam results are finally on their way. But for your child this is just the beginning of the next stage of their lives – probably further education or perhaps the first tentative steps into the world of employment. For most youngsters, this is an emotionally charged time. So how can you best support them through the process, particularly if they did not get the grades they wanted?
While you are waiting
Start talking to your child before their results arrive. Ask about their expectations and hopes for the future and offer reassurance that you are proud of them and will support them whatever grades they get. Plan a family event to mark the occasion, making it clear that you are celebrating all the hard work and effort your child has put in, regardless of outcome.
Now is the time to make sure you have all the information and contact numbers you are likely to need if your child is hoping to go on to sixth form, college or university.
What can you do if your child didn’t get the exam results they were hoping for?
Of course your child is going to need your practical help as they decide what to do next, but it is important to take a holistic approach, being there for them emotionally too.
- Talk to your child about how they are feeling. They may be reluctant to do this, or pretend they don’t care. Some youngsters may feel like giving up as an immediate reaction. Encourage them to discuss their disappointment, before moving on to what to do next.
- Help put things in perspective. Nobody succeeds 100 per cent of the time and failing an exam isn’t the end of the world. They can re-sit or choose a different route. Help them to see it is part of a learning process.
- Look after your own emotions. Try to separate your own hopes (perhaps what you would have wished for yourself at their age) from what you child actually wants.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If your child is reluctant to open up to you, it can be helpful to involve an outsider, perhaps a teacher, youth counsellor or mediator.
Talking through the options
Listen to what your child wants and don’t try to force them down a route they are not happy with.
Go through the options with them. Be positive and move on from the disappointment you may be feeling. Discuss second choice universities and colleges and or clearing. There may also be the chance of re-sits.
Don’t try to make your teenager to continue into further education if they really don’t want to. Vocational training, internships or full-time work are all valid options. Remember your child can always return to education at a later stage.
For more information about supporting your child emotionally:
- Family Lives is an established UK charity offering help for parents. Its website has advice on how to support your child through exam results and there is also a helpline you can call: 0808 800 2222
- Relate at relate.org.uk also has tips about handling exam results and offers online and face-to-face counselling for parents and young people.
- AQA, the awarding body and independent education charity, has practical information about exam results, what to do if you are unhappy with your child’s grades, re-sits and re-marks at aqa.org.uk
- gov.uk gives Government advice about appealing exam results, as well as information about higher and further education, student finance, apprenticeships and training for work.