The wait for Scottish high school exam results is likely to be almost as stressful for parents as it is for their children. In the second part of our exam results blog, we offer our advice for parents about coping with exam results stress.
Looking for advice for young people receiving exam results? Read our young adults guide to exam results.
Plan for exam results stress
As leading providers of school-based counselling, The Spark knows how stressful and pressurised the whole process of exams and exam results can be. The best way for parents to help their children through results day is to make a plan for receiving them. This starts in advance of results day.
A few weeks before results day
It is common for parents to offer rewards and treats for their child taking exams. If you are planning to do this try not to make rewards conditional on grades. Even if your child does not get the result they had hoped for on exam results day, it may be the best they could have achieved.
Discuss it with them to decide what they think would be a good way of celebrating the achievements they have made. Remind them that they have studied really hard for the exams and that itself deserves a treat/reward. If your child does not get the result they had hoped for, not getting the treat/reward could be a double blow and heighten their exam results stress.
The days before results day
Try to encourage your child to get a good nights’ sleep the day before exam results are due. This may mean getting up a bit earlier rather than having a lie in the day before. With many young adults enjoying long-lies during the summer holidays, it might be worth encouraging them to get into a better routine 3-4 days before results day to help get that good sleep the night before.
The day before exam results arrive take them out for the day. Burn some of that nervous energy with a walk or their favourite sports activity. Then encourage them to do something relaxing in the evening like watching their favourite film (not about exams!), listening to their favourite music, reading a book or watching a comedy. Having a nice soak in the bath can also be beneficial in relaxing them before bed.
On the day exam results arrive help them to set aside time if they are waiting on a text, e-mail or postal results. Have a plan in place that your child feels most comfortable with on the day: would they prefer to receive their results with family, with friends or perhaps quietly themselves. Also if they wish, help them to sort out the practicalities of what they are going to do after they receive their results.
If they would prefer to call you and tell you their results, ensure you have time set aside to be available to take that phone call. If they would like you to be with them when they receive their results, can you make arrangements to be there? Alternatively, they might wish to open their results with friends in which case it is important to help them arrange the practicalities on where they are going, how they get there etc.
For those about to receive results, we salute you
It is really important to celebrate all achievements, even if they may not be what you or your child had hoped for or expected. Their effort is to be applauded and their achievements recognised as a great accomplishment even if they did not score straight A’s.
The days after exam results arrive
Your child may feel anxious about sharing them with you, particularly if they did not get the results they had hoped for. It may be a good idea to allow them a bit of space until they feel comfortable to approach you to share. During this time encourage and remind them that it is just a result and does not define who they are or affect your love for them. Love is not conditional on academic grades.
Remind your child of their qualities
Make a list or remind them of the things they do well, encourage them not to compare themselves to their friends. Put the results into perspective – it was one set of exam results. It does not have to limit their goals for the future. They may need encouragement and creative thinking to generate alternative routes or career option plans. If you do not have the information that could help them to make these decisions, encourage them to access further support services.
Exam results helplines
Skills Development Scotland will operate a dedicated exam results helpline. This is aimed at helping young adults get the best information to help their post-exam results decision-making. Contacting the university or college they had hoped to attend is important as they may still be able to offer them a place, even if they did not get the result they were aiming for. Speaking to organisations most knowledgeable about your child’s future options will greatly help to reduce exam results stress.
Remember to do this at your child’s pace. Be mindful before, during and after results of any additional pressure you may be adding to your child. This may be because of your expectations and hopes for them to do well. Most parents would want their child to achieve their maximum potential but be realistic about what this is for your child. Avoiding comparing your child’s results to those of your neighbours’ or friends’ children.
If exam results stress is causing issues for you as a parent – perhaps between you and your child or you and your partner – The Spark can provide support and counselling services for individuals, couples and families.
You can talk to one of our helpline team for free on 0808 802 2088 to receive immediate relationship support and advice, available 11am-2pm every Tuesday and Wednesday.
For counselling sessions and support freephone 0808 802 0050 or complete a counselling enquiry form. We cater to couples, individuals, young people and families and operate from counselling centres across Scotland.