The last couple of years have been incredibly disrupted for teens – school closures, different grading systems, remote learning – the lot. And now with results day approaching, teens have the regular anxiety of waiting to see what grades they’ve got, with the added twist of a different grading system. That’s a recipe for nerves if you ask us.
The thing is, learning to navigate uncertainty is a skill that sets teens up for life – as well as results day. And while you can’t stop your child experiencing anxiety over situations that are out of control, as a parent you can help them a lot by teaching them how to manage their feelings at times like these. We spoke to the psychologists over at mental health platform Unmind for their advice on how parents can support their teens ahead of results day. Check out what they had to say below.
1. Normalise uncertainty
As humans, we’re hardwired to struggle with uncertainty. When confronted with it – such as how things will unfold with exams – we fill in the blanks with our own narratives, which are often negative. So first acknowledge this and normalise it. Now think of ways that you the parent can offer certainty – this could come in the form of anything from a clear daily schedule to the reminder that everyone is in the same position.
Even if they get results they’re not happy with, there will always be options. If they’re worried about whether they’ll get the grades for the university or college of their choice, simply reassuring them that it’s normal to feel anxious about this can help make the lead-up much calmer.
2. Talk about it
Another technique is emotional reasoning. Amid feelings of anxiety we convince ourselves there must be something horribly wrong (or else why would we feel so knotted?) but actually this isn’t always the case. Help them to be objective about the facts and the real – often quite low – levels of serious threat involved. Whatever grades they get, there’s always a plan B (and C, and D). Parents should also remind their kids that education is important, but that your love for them doesn’t depend on high grades.
3. Get them to focus on what they can control
Encourage them to direct their energy towards things that are within their control – not what’s outside of it. For instance, it’s not practical to ruminate over the impact of the climate crisis, however it is effective to go green, go to protests, or to raise awareness of the issue. Similarly, with regards to the pandemic, you can’t control what happens but you can control how you respond to it – such as wearing a mask and washing your hands.
If your child is anxious about going back to school, remind them that it’s likely their entire school will be sharing similar feelings of unease to a lesser or greater extent. To fill in some of the blanks, encourage them to focus on what’s known and certain – the health and safety measures in place at school, how they will get to school each day, and what their days will look like.
4. Help them avoid comparing themselves to others
Everyone has things that they’re good at and things they struggle with, and they’re not all measurable by school grades! As parents, it can help to remind your teen not to compare their grades to those of their friends, and to be proud of what they’ve achieved irrespective of results- they’ve navigated their education through a pandemic! However they’re feeling, it helps to encourage children to talk about their concerns and work through specific anxieties like these together.
If your teen would like any help with their school work over the holidays, out online tutors are on-hand to offer advice, guidance and mentoring through this tricky time. Our tutors are all subject experts from UK unis, and they went through the same process as your child in the past few years (so they can empathise with their education being disrupted this year too!). Have a browse for a tutor or book a call with one of our tutor experts, and we’ll help you find what you need.