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Exam Results are Testing for Parents Too

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It's that time of year again. Teenagers all over the UK will find out this and next week whether or not they've got the A level and GCSE results they were hoping for.

Nail-biting doesn't quite cover it. And I'm talking about the parents, not the students. I know this, because I'm one.

Last year, as my 18-year-old son was camping in the south of France, I was nominated to collect the envelope containing his A-level results then read them out over a slightly fuzzy mobile phone line.

He did okay but didn't get the grades he'd been hoping for and although he (and we) hid the disappointment well, it was a bit of a tough day all round.

He wanted to go to uni for which he needed better grades but didn't want to go back to sixth form to re-sit.

In the end, he took a gap year and gained valuable experience of real life by stacking shelves on a night shift in our local Sainsbury's for months on end and volunteering as a classroom assistant at his old school.

Once he'd saved up enough money, he went travelling to Australia and Asia for five months and has come back a happier, more mature and relaxed young adult.

Even better, he managed to land an interview at the university of his choice before leaving for his gap year adventure.

About a week into his travels, he emailed us from Perth to say he'd received an unconditional offer.

He was ecstatic but the relief and delight we felt as parents was just as huge.

This year, my younger son is waiting to hear how he's done in his GCSEs so I'll be on tenterhooks in the lead-up to August 23, along with thousands of other mums and dads.

There's no magic bullet to make the worry go away and yes, I know you have to step back and realise this not your life but that doesn't make it any easier.

One thing I have learned is that you have to trust them because, even if it's hidden deep down, they instinctively know what they really want to do and what they're really good at.

There's a lot of really excellent support and information out there - from schools, colleges and the Department for Education's Exam Results Helpline on 0808 100 8000.

The Helpline offers free, independent advice and is open from A level results day (Thursday August 16) right through until Saturday 25 August, see www.ucas.com/examresultshelpline .

It's set up for students but parents can call too and talk to people who have huge experience in careers advice and can give information on re-sits, re-marks, university, apprenticeships, gap years or setting up in business.

After that, it's up to the student to make the right decision and all you, as a parent, have to do is take a deep breath and keep quiet.

But, and this is a big but, their decision may not be the one you would have made. And that, I reckon, is just the way it should be.

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