Saturday 3 December 2016

Students need a parental listening ear

Don't be a helicopter parent on a rescue mission for your children, writes Patrice Twomey

Patrice Twomey

Published 22/08/2016 | 06:00

Patrice Twomey, University of Limerick. Picture: Alan Place/Fusionshooters
Patrice Twomey, University of Limerick. Picture: Alan Place/Fusionshooters

If you're a parent or guardian of a Leaving Cert student, the summer of waiting is finally over. Hopefully your child is happy with their CAO offer - in which case you'll be feeling relieved, happy and focused on the practicalities of seeing them on their way to third level.

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For those parents whose child may be experiencing disappointment today, there's no need for panic or hasty decisions. Your son or daughter still has options available to them and they have a full week in which to make their decision.

First things first though. For the next few days, see your main role as providing a supportive, sympathetic listening ear. However tempting it might be, don't launch the parent-rescue mission. Disappointment is part of life and it's important that you give them the time and space to experience it. You too may be feeling stressed and anxious but keep your focus trained on your child. Over the next few days, use the time to acknowledge their feelings and listen to their story.

This will be hugely helpful to them and, just as importantly, it will help you to understand, evaluate and respond to their perspective.

After a few days, gently bring the conversation around to the first round offer. Regardless of where it ranked on their list of CAO preferences, encourage your son or daughter to research the course using the online prospectus of the relevant institution. This may sound very obvious but it is amazing how many students accept course offers without exploring the course content or structure.

The fit between the course and their natural interests, preference and strengths should drive their choice - not their points count. Very occasionally, students may be offered one of their higher preference courses in round two.

However, the best advice is for your son or daughter to base their decision on the first round offer. Remember too, of course, that just because they secure an offer doesn't mean that they have to accept it. There's little sense in taking up a course in which they have no interest.

Perspective is very important at this time. Try to leave the hype aside. Be assured that Leaving Cert results, points counts and CAO offers are not a measure of your child or their future career success.

So, encourage your child to see higher education qualifications as the gateway to future career opportunities, rather than something that will somehow define their future. Remember that graduates are more career mobile than ever, with most graduates changing jobs at least once before the age of 24.

From my experience of graduate employability at the University of Limerick, employers look for graduates with a range of attributes that have little to do with degree discipline or academic results.

In this week of decision-making, your greatest gift will be to assure your child of their potential and remind them of their individual talents, skills and abilities. You are uniquely positioned to support them on this journey. Be confident that you can make a difference.

Patrice Twomey is Director, Cooperative Education & Careers Division University of Limerick and one of the authors of Aiming Higher, a guide for parents and guardians to support their children in higher education choices

Irish Independent

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