By Dr Mark Winwood, Director of Psychological Services for AXA PPP healthcare
Pressure on students to succeed is higher than ever, with fierce competition for university and school places. This pressure is heightened with exam results looming.
The hype means that results day can present a mix of emotions – joy, regret, stress or euphoria. And this isn’t just limited to the children! However, it’s important to support your child in the best way you can – which includes keeping them healthy and reducing their stress in the build up to the day.
How to help your children cope ahead of results day
1. Talk things through
It’s natural to worry, to want your child to do well and to dread them being disappointed, but keeping positive will help reassure them if they’re dwelling on the negative. It’s not unusual for children to be anxious, emotional and potentially snappy as pressure mounts. Ask them about any worries or fears they might have so that you can give yourself the best chance of understanding where they’re coming from.
2. Keep active
In the days before the results are posted, encourage them to socialise with friends and enjoy activities to keep their minds busy. You should take some time for yourself too, so that you can keep a sense of perspective. Perhaps you can both go for a walk together, as exercise will have a beneficial effect on both your physical and mental health.
3. Eat and sleep well
They may seem all grown up now, but as a parent, you’re well placed to encourage them to eat and sleep well during periods of pressure. Just like when they were small, your child will be relying on you for guidance and support. Taking care of these basic needs will help to build their resilience and lessen the impact of stress or anxiety.
4. Coping with disappointment
If the results aren’t good or not up to the expected standard, try not to panic or pass your disappointment or worry onto your child. It’s not fair and they’ll be feeling guilty or worried already. Remind your child that difficult situations can be overcome. If they don’t get the grades they want, there’s always the option to re-take the exam. Though they may see this as a setback, it could give rise to opportunities they hadn’t considered before such as taking up an apprenticeship. Planning ahead and looking at the various options your child can take if their results aren’t want they’d hoped for will give you reassurance, whatever the results.
While exam results can bring anxiety, they can also be a source of joy. If your child has worked hard and done their best, celebrate their effort (even if they didn’t get the place they wanted). Have a celebratory family dinner together with your child as the guest of honour and all enjoy the feeling of achievement. We spend so much of our lives worrying about things to come that it’s worth savouring these special moments!