Exam results season is looming for university leavers and high school students. Results day can be a stressful and anxious time for all students and every year the dread of checking university results online or opening the exam results envelope delivers a wide range of emotions- some students will have big smiles on their faces when they achieve better results than predicted, others will be bitterly disappointed having missed out on much needed grades to go to university or to make their first step on the career ladder. It's good to prepare yourself or your children with tips to avoid exam results anxiety and know how to deal with disappointment.
Firstly it's important to set a positive mind-set towards exam results and any setbacks. In the days running up to results days get lots of sleep so you have a clear mind. Don't put too much pressure on yourself and be realistic. The weight of expectation can be extremely heavy and as the adage goes are 'resentments waiting to happen'. It's always good in life to have a Plan B in case things don't go as you were expecting. Ahead of getting your results compile a list of alternative routes to achieve your goals e.g. embark on a college course as a route into university and jot down an action plan. You will bounce back from disappointment more easily if you have already thought about that possibility.
When you get your results take a deep breath, read them carefully and don't panic. Don't be deflated straight away and look for positive ways forward if things haven't gone according to plan and consult your Plan B list outlining your options. Acceptance is fundamental to dealing with disappointment, which is merely a short term obstacle. It's important not to dwell on what could have been as what is done is done and unfortunately you can't change things. However, you can change your approach next time, learn from mistakes, and don't let disappointment hold you back but turn the angst into motivation for the future. Moreover, use it as a springboard to re-focus and consider other options out there such as; taking re-sits, embark on a gap year, or go through university Clearing. It's important to use all available resources and help at hand; speak to your teachers or tutors, it's their job to help you and they are well placed to advise and help you think about alternative ways forward, and turn to your family and close friends for guidance and reassurance.
So how can parents and guardians help their children and deal with their own disappointment on exam results D-day?
Firstly, it's really important for parents or guardians to stay calm and collective. As hard as it may be, parents should try not to show if they are feeling anxious and avoid conveying their own disappointment. If things haven't gone to plan and the results aren't what was expected then offer support not criticism and don't compare results with other siblings' achievements. Listen and try to understand how your child sees things and respect that they may need time and space to accept the results. Everyone copes with stress differently and there may be differences between the way you and your child deal with things.
To help distract your child's attention away from exam results, perhaps suggest going out for a walk or for lunch or encourage them to spend time doing something they enjoy whether that's shopping or going out with friends. Reassure your child and tell him or her that however they have done you are proud of how hard they have worked and highlight their other achievements. It's good to stress that disappointing grades aren't the end of the world and it's also a good idea to share your own stories of failure or struggles to illustrate that getting to where you want to be isn't easy and how a step backwards sometimes can often be the best way forward.
Finally, it's important for students to remember that there is lots of help and advice out there and take comfort in knowing that come exam results day you are not alone but one out of millions of students feeling the same way. Above all, remain ambitious and remember that failure, like success, is rarely complete or final. Sometimes success is best measured not by outcomes such as good exam grades but how we react in difficult times and bounce back.