Sunday 25 August 2019

Ask an expert: How can I help my daughter prepare for exam results?

'Getting Leaving Cert exam results is one of the most important events in your daughter’s life. And in most parents’ lives.'
'Getting Leaving Cert exam results is one of the most important events in your daughter’s life. And in most parents’ lives.'

Belinda Kelly

Q: How should I react when my daughter gets her Leaving Cert results? She is so stressed about not getting the course that she wants.

All her friends plan on going to the same college, even though some will do better than others. I know this is unrealistic, but I’m not sure how to prepare her for all the different outcomes.

Answer: The results are online next Tuesday at 10am. This is one of the most important events in your daughter’s life. And in most parents’ lives. Below, I’ve listed some of the ways you can help prepare and support your teenager on the day.

Teach them to prepare

Start a conversation with your daughter about where she’d like to be when she receives her results. This is a wonderful way to teach her to figure out what she feels is best for her. It helps to build reflectivity so that she’s not reacting on an impulsive level. Instead of deciding on the day or the night before, you can teach her to choose how she’d like to prepare for getting her results. Ask her would she like to be alone when she gets her results. Or would she prefer to be with you or a close friend? If at all possible, do try to be at home when she gets her results.

Getting the results

If she doesn’t get what she had hoped for, be open to any number of responses, from elation to despair. Remember that she has been gearing up for these results for a number of years. Give her space to experience her own reaction without commenting or getting involved. Just let her be how she needs to be.

Acknowledge all the hard work

It’s important to acknowledge and validate the extraordinary journey that she has been on. Congratulate her on all the effort and hard work she has put in. Let her know how proud you are of how she has handled herself during one of the most difficult transitions in her life.

Paint the bigger picture

If she doesn’t get the outcome she had been hoping for, try not to collude in her feelings of despair. Acknowledge that she is disappointed and that this is a really stressful time. Let her know that she is unique and that nobody moves along a predetermined pathway. Tell her how much you love and admire her. Affirm that she is not her results. She is far far more than that.

Each person has their own unique journey to make. Tell her that there are so many ways for her to follow her ambition. That together you will work it all out. Keep checking in with her so that you can support the huge anti-climax that is sure to follow. Have some social activities planned so that she has something to look forward to. Ensure that your family does not focus on the results so that she knows there is much more to life than the Leaving Cert.

Question: My son did very little study for the Leaving Cert. I am not looking forward to the results when they come out next week. I am worried about him as he has no interest in his future. When I ask him what college he’d like to go to, he just shrugs and says he never wants to open another book again. He has never been academic but is talented on the guitar and plays in pubs with some friends. His elder siblings are all highly academic and successful. We try not to compare him, but we are worried about his future. He spends most of his time in his room gaming, sleeping or going out with his friends.

Answer: The final year of school is a time of great change and transition. During times of heightened stress and change, there can be increased anxiety or detachment and a return to earlier battles about freedom such as drinking, etc. It is also a time of loss as friendships change, the safety of school is lost and their sense of belonging becomes shaky.

It seems everyone is waiting for your son to progress into the next phase of his life. But he doesn’t sound as if he is ready. He may be stalled at a developmental impasse. Or in other words, failing to launch.

So many adolescents struggle with the move from the adult-managed world of secondary school into the self-managed future that lies ahead. But with the waning of adult supervision, an undercurrent of anxiety and doubt about competence can erupt.

The goal of adolescence is witnessing ‘Who I am becoming?’ Once we finish school, we begin the journey towards adulthood. This is where we need to start taking control of our lives.

Teenagers need to be prepared for this extraordinary transition. For this to happen, a number of tasks need to be in place. They need to feel some sense of purpose in their lives. They need to have future goals and ambitions. Their relationships with their parents or caregivers need to be resolved. They should ideally have some understanding of their shifting identity and everything else that makes them who they are. These achievements help them to live independently and to learn to make their own decisions.

When a young person doesn’t want to do this, we need to consider the many reasons why. Is he struggling with other issues that are getting in the way of him being able to focus on himself? Perhaps he has no sense of purpose or any understanding of who he is as an individual. He may be stuck at a much younger age, where he feels unsure about leaving the safety of his bedroom.

He sounds as if he is firmly stuck in the present with no sense of the future. It’s as if the future doesn’t concern him. There is a discrepancy between his experience of himself and the world around him. He may be in a ‘bubble world’. The dilemma is that this world is fragile and will burst once his pals head off in their own direction.

It would be beneficial for him to talk to someone who could help penetrate his wall of disinterest. It could be a career coach, a teacher he likes or an aunt or uncle he looks up to. Could they suggest he study music so that he can perform while creating a career for himself?

If he continues not to have any interest in progressing, then I would encourage him to get professional help. This would help him become more curious about himself and support him to take himself and his future more seriously.


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