Thursday 22 February 2018

The guidance counsellor: 'I have had calls from parents wanting to know if Heaney will be on English Paper Two'

Aoife Walsh
Aoife Walsh

Aoife Walsh

Although I spend my days giving support to students, there are a few tips I often wish I could pass on to parents.

Don't forget to celebrate.

It is a tremendous task to guide young people through their 13-14 years of education. For many families, this has been a path with some stumbles and struggles and, there is no doubt, it has been littered with self-doubt. Take the time to acknowledge the achievement. They have made it. You have made it. Rejoice. They may not appreciate all you have done for them now, but they will.

The Leaving Cert is not everything. Yes, it's important, but it is but one step in a journey. Keep the exam in perspective. Higher points will give your child more options when it comes to college but will not necessarily affect how successful they will be as people or in their careers. Their hard work, creativity and passion will have a much larger effect on their future prospects than their CAO points. Even if they do not manage to get the necessary grade or extra five points for their current dream course, life will go on.

Hopefully, the CAO is completed in such a way that although the student may be disappointed if they do not receive an offer for their number one choice, they will enjoy every course they have listed and can see how this course will add to their career development. If in any doubt, it is still possible to work on this as the CAO change of mind facility remains open until July 1, well after the exams have finished. Don't let your stress increase theirs. Stress is contagious.

All parents worry about how their child will perform and how they will manage. At this point, there is little you can do but feed them, support them and help them stay calm.

I have had phone calls from parents who are stressed out and wanting to discuss the likelihood of Dickinson or Heaney appearing on English Paper Two. Focus on what you can do: keep the house quiet, keep the food coming and ask them what they need.

If your young person tends to worry, reassurance is your best tool. Remind them of all they have achieved, explain why you think they will achieve again and focus on the present. Focus on each task one step at a time and one thing at a time. Support them to be fully present in their revision and in the breaks. It's all about balance.

Avoid post mortems.

Yes, you want to know how it went and you might be trying to be helpful, but your child retelling the exam to you in minute detail will not change how it went.

They are more likely to recall the answers they did not know or the things they forgot to write than what went well. Post mortems will increase everyone's stress and concerns and have absolutely no impact on the result. When you ask how the exam went, accept their answer and try not to probe even if that answer is the all too familiar 'fine'.

Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin, and writes a weekly advice column in the Irish Independent

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