We’re smack bang in A-level and GCSE exam results season: that time of year when tensions run high, emotions flow over, and tough decisions have to be made. And that’s just for the parents!
Recent studies have shown that it’s not just the pupils who are stressing over their exam results. Anxious parents, unable to contain their own feelings in the run-up to results day, are piling more pressure on their already-worried kids. In fact, nearly a third of pupils in a recent poll of students waiting for their A-level and GCSE results said parental pressure was simply making the stress far worse – and 6 in 10 said Results Day was the most stressful day of their lives.
That’s understandable, as there can be so many outcomes riding on those results. As well as the practicalities of what happens next (courses, apprenticeships, university, college) there’s all the pent-up feelings to process – whether exam results are above or below expectation. So the last thing students want is further pressure from their parents.
If this resonates with you, here are our tips to help you and your kids survive the stress of exam results season:
- Consider whether you’re living vicariously through your offspring. Do they have to live up to your exceedingly high standards because you did so well in your day, and it’s only to be expected of them? If so, then start to see your child/young adult as a person in their own right with a future that they will need to create. Step down off your pedestal and let your sons and daughters live their own dreams.
- Do you need your child to achieve top-notch exam results to make you look good in front of the neighbours/friends/family? If so, remember that their grades are about THEM, not you. Your self-esteem or standing in the community does not depend on your child’s performance.
- Don’t brush off bad results with ‘oh well, you can always re-sit’. Failing an exam for a teenager isn’t just about the result. It could be the loss of a long-wanted place, and they may feel shame or embarrassment at not achieving it. Let them talk it through with you.
- Don’t compare your child with their peers. If your student has performed better/worse won’t matter for your son or daughter if they were counting on a friend to come to the same college as them. Their path is their path. Better or worse shouldn’t count.
- Don’t brag if your child has done well. Be inwardly proud, of course, but don’t make your attention and love conditional on your son or daughter’s achievements. Celebrate all efforts and results. Not just the top ones.
- Look out for signs of stress, which may manifest in physical symptoms in your child. A recent survey said that parents are often so stressed themselves that they overlook or underplay stress in their children. If they’re anxious or have a recurrent headache or stomach ache, or trouble eating or sleeping, then they could be signs that they’re suffering from stress. Encourage them to talk, spend time with peers, do something sporty – anything to distract them from their exam stress.
- Kids can pick up on their parents’ stress levels, so take some time out to unwind too. If you’re too anxious then this will rub off on your children and affect their performance.
- Bottom line is: always give your children what THEY need, not what you need.
If you and your family need some extra support through the stresses of this challenging time, give us a call to speak to one of our child and adolescent therapists. You can book individual and/or family sessions by calling 020 8673 4545. It may help you and your family achieve just the results you need.