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Exams: surviving results day

Exam results day can be an anxious time for students and their parents too. Here are our tips to help you make sure you are being your child's mentor, not tormentor!

"You're nervous? How do you think feel?" Parents across the country hear this or similar refrains from their teens, as emotions and anxieties run high.

Of course your kids are right, it is more about them than it is about you. But you’ve been so invested in your child's education and you want the best outcomes for them in life, so naturally the results really matter to you too. Remember though, the last thing young people want is added pressure from parents, so keep the focus on their dreams and aspirations, not your own.

There can be so much riding on the results and you have to think about the practicalities of what happens next too. If it's A-Levels, the next step may be securing that all-important university place. If it's GCSEs, the grades could determine where and what they will study over the next two years, and with the grading system undergoing a major overhaul there's even more to think about this year. The new grades currently only apply to English Literature, English Language and Maths, take a look at our parent's guide for more details.

Here are our tips to help survive the stress of exam results day:

Be a teammate

You’re both on the same side, perhaps worried about the same thing, and desperate for good results. Your child needs to feel supported, and sometimes that means taking a step back and listening, rather than letting them feed off your anxiety. Once you know the results, offer reassurance and let them know you’re proud of their hard work.

Don't panic!

You need to be a ‘rock’ to your teenager throughout the day, and over the days and weeks that follow. If they’re showing signs of stress (recurrent headache or stomach ache, trouble eating or sleeping), encourage them to spend time with friends or do something sporty – anything that distracts them while they’re waiting for their results.

Should I stay or should I go?

If a clash with your wound-up teen seems inevitable, making their own way to school to collect results or travelling with friends may be best. If your child needs you to drive them, but is anxious, listening to music on the way may be a better alternative to sullen or prickly conversation. Keep the “what ifs” to yourself until you know what the situation is.

The 'what ifs'

Be prepared. Allow for a plan B. And a plan C. Know what the options are. Do your own research on alternative subjects or courses your child may happily study, or sixth forms and colleges they might consider applying for. But keep in mind it’s their future, not yours, so don't push them unless you’re sure it’s towards something they want to do.

It's good to talk

Have a conversation with them to find out what their expectations are and tell them that whatever their results, you will support them.

Teens often don’t like to be shown off to other people, so try to be matter-of-fact if you’re telling others their results in front of them - you can shout it from the rooftops when they’re not around!

For yourself, don’t be afraid to confide in other parents. Whatever the outcome, you’re not the only parent going through it. Opening up lifts the burden or spreads the joy, and you may end up hearing an option you haven’t previously considered.

If the grades aren’t as good as they’d hoped, try and help them put things into perspective. Failing an exam isn't the end of the world and everyone loses out at some time or other. Don’t brush the disappointment off with ‘oh well, you can always re-sit’ though. For a teenager, failing an exam isn’t just about the result; they may feel embarrassed or that they’ve let you down if they don’t achieve what was expected.

Consider all options

Encourage them talk it through, and be clear that they don’t need to rush into any decisions. Accept that they may wish to speak to others they feel can offer better explanations, such as their teachers or head of year.

Crucially, don’t pigeonhole everything in terms of success and failure. Ultimately, the results will determine what your child does next, but they aren't the last word in what your child can achieve. They are at the start of their lives, with so many doors still open to them.

Finally, help is at hand

Make sure you know who to call at the school for advice or support. If your child had a place at college conditional on results, have a contact number to hand - you can often negotiate on a lower grade.

The UCAS exam results helpline is for parents as well as teens, offering careers advice and support. Call them on 0808 100 8000 for expert guidance. 

Put your child in touch with The Mix, a support service for young people at

Above all - good luck!

Reviewed: January 2018

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