Now A-Level and GCSE results are out, you may be wondering how best to support your teenager facing up to their disappointment.
Not everyone got the grades they dreamt of and, although outwardly younger people may not appear so upset, deep down they may well be feeling the stress of despair, guilt maybe, and anger that their friends have done better.
Childline figures show a 21% rise in counselling sessions over the last year for young people worried about their grades. Relate is the UK’s largest provider of children and young people’s counselling in schools and here in Bedford and Luton by far the biggest number of counselling sessions we do are with young people of exam age.
So how best should we handle the coming weeks?
Local Relate counsellor Diane Whitmore says that without realising they are doing any harm, parents can sometimes put unnecessary pressure on their children.
“Most parents want what’s best for their child and that’s why they can sometimes pile on the pressure over school work and exams,” she says. “But pushing your child too hard, or criticising them when they don’t get the grades you’d hoped for, isn’t good for their self-esteem or your relationship.
“When it comes to knowing how to react, take your cue from your child. If they’re happy with their grades, try to be happy for them too, even if the straight As you’d hoped for didn’t materialise. If they’re disappointed, support them and talk them through the options they have. It may be that lower than expected grades act as a catalyst for positive changes in their lives or to decide what it is they really want to do.”
Tips for young people
Be honest. You might feel like bottling up what you’re worried about, but if you’re honest with your friends and family, they might be able to help. It can also be hard for those around you to know how to react unless you tell them what you’re hoping for.
Don’t despair. If your results are not what you were hoping for, try not to fly off the handle. It’s ok to feel disappointed, and you should give yourself time for that. But try to think about what steps you can take now to improve the situation.
Talk to someone. If your results aren’t what you wanted, make an effort to talk to an expert about your options. It might be that you can retake exams, or there might be alternative routes that you can take from here. Find out as much information as you can before rushing a decision.
Tips for parents
Talk to your teenager. Try to find out about their expectations so you know what they’re going through. This can make them feel cared for, and it also helps you know how to react.
Match your expectations with theirs. You might be harbouring hopes for a top student, but that might not be what your teenager is hoping for. If they’re happy with their grades, be happy for them. Equally, if they’re disappointed, try to see where they’re coming from and offer support.
Don’t underestimate the effect that exam results can have. Results can be one of the most important issues for young people and it’s vital to recognise that. Don’t make out that the results don’t matter.
Support them. If the grades are not what your teenager was hoping for, give them time to come to terms with it. They might want to talk through their options with you, or they might just want to be alone, but make sure they know that you’re feeling for them, and you’re there to help.
If you or your teenager would like to talk with one of our counsellors do give our friendly appointments team a call on 01234 356350. Some of our young people’s counselling is free and we provide free counselling for young people at the TOKKO youth space, Luton, on most days.