PARENTS

How Parents Can Calm Anxious Kids And Teens Ahead Of Receiving Their GCSE Or A Level Exam Results

'Explore ways in which they can relax and self-soothe.'

03/08/2017 13:45 BST

Once the stress of exams is over for children and teenagers, then begins the long wait for results, which can be an extremely anxious time. 

Whether they are awaiting GCSE or A Level results, many kids put a lot of pressure on themselves to do well and ponder what is coming up next in their lives.

So how do you know when you, as a parent, need to step in and ensure they aren’t dealing with worries alone? 

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What can parents do to calm their children ahead of exam results?

Jo Hardy, head of parent services at children’s mental health charity YoungMinds said it’s important parents stay calm, especially if their child is becoming worried or even panicked. 

Acknowledge the worry.

An NSPCC spokesperson said: “The wait for exam results can be stressful for children but encouraging them to talk about their worries can help them feel calmer and less anxious.”

Hardy added that it’s important parents acknowledge their child’s worries and reassure them that they will be there, whatever the results.

“Try to steer clear of vague or dismissive reassurances that don’t engage with their fears,” she told HuffPost UK.

“Talk to your child about what they feel would be helpful for them at this time. Make sure they know you are there whenever they want to talk about it and you will be there no matter what the results are.” 

Encouraging them to talk about their worries can help them feel calmer and less anxious." NSPCC advice

Encourage them to think about their options.

The NSPCC spokesperson said parents should encourage children to take their time to think about what they’d like to do, before they get their results.

“Help them write down the pros and cons of every option and make sure they don’t rush into a decision,” they advised.

“If they find it hard to talk to you perhaps they can speak to another family member or teacher, and they can always contact Childline 24/7 for advice and support.”

Don’t put pressure on them.

“Try not to place unnecessary pressure on your child to gain certain grades and if they are disappointed with their results let them know you are there to support them,” the NSPCC advised.

“Whatever results they get, they will have a lot to think about and it’s important to remind your child not to panic and that there are always options available.”

Hardy agreed, adding: “Being mindful of your own thoughts and feelings can also be important.

“Even if you’re sure they’ve got nothing to be afraid of, be careful not to add to any pressure on them. Instead, re-enforce how proud you are of the effort they have put in.”

Find distractions for them.

Having acknowledged how they are feeling, it can be helpful to find distractions for your child in the weeks leading up to their results.

“Take a trip or do something you like to do together to pass the time, without thinking about looming results,” said Hardy.

“You could also explore ways in which they can relax and self-soothe. What works will be different for every child, but examples might include reading a book, having a bath or listening to music.”

Have your own support network

As a parent it’s natural to feel worried about your child’s results if their future college or university are dependant on them.

But try not to reflect this around your child, advised Hardy. “Make time to talk this through within your support network, whether this is with your partner, friends or other family members,” she said. 

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What should parents do on exam results day?

Kids may be withdrawn and quiet, or exhilarated and fired up on the day of their results.

“Take the lead from your child about what they want to do on the day, and be there as much or as little as they want you to be,” Hardy said.

“Sometimes it can be useful to have a plan for the day, so that if they don’t get what they’re expecting, there is no pressure to go out and celebrate when they are feeling upset or anxious about the future.

“Schools, colleges and universities are generally equipped to support young people on exam day in discussing their next steps. Encourage your child to work with them to explore all the options they have available.” 

What should parents do if their children don’t get the results they were hoping for?

Teenagers disappointed with their results may feel scared about the future and embarrassed to face their friends and family.

Hardy said they may have feelings of anger, isolation and hopelessness. They may also dwell on their disappointed feelings and be uncertain about what to do next.

“It is important at such times to respect that they may need time and space to reflect on their results and when they are ready, you can help them to move on and create a new plan,” she said.

“This is not the end for them, there are many different avenues to explore and everyone is different and will be good at different things.”

Teens will need both encouragement and reassurance, as well as knowing their parents are there to talk to them and help them make an informed decision about what to do next.

“It can also be helpful to reassure them that there are other options and that exam results are not the only thing that employers look at,” said Hardy.

“Plenty of successful people have got to where they are without getting straight As or achieving academically.”

If you are worried that your child’s feelings remained heightened for some time after the exams and start to impact on your child’s day-to-day life, it is a good time to raise concerns with your GP.

For more information:

Children and young people can contact Childline for free, confidential support and advice, 24 hours a day on 0800 1111 or at www.childline.org.uk.

YoungMinds charity run a parents helpline with free and confidential expert advice. Call 0808 802 5544.

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