After months of revision, practise exams and nerves, soon thousands of teens across the country will be collecting their A-level and GCSE results. We put together our top tips on how you can support teens on results day
The long wait is almost over. With teens across England set to pick up their A-level results on the 16 August and GCSE results out on 23 August, the big day can be an anxious, stress-filled time. And it’s not just teens feeling the pressure; for parents, results day is the conclusion of months of emotions running high, providing support, help, and an endless supply of snacks during study time.
Being on hand to support teens, and let them know you are there whatever the outcome can be vital in helping the day run more smoothly. Knowing how we can best support them and the right words to say can be tricky. So, we’ve put together a few simple tips to help you feel prepared to support them on results day.
Results day still a few weeks away? Check out our guide on How To Support Your Teen in the Run-Up to Results Day to discover ways you can help support them during the long stretch between that final exam and receiving their results.
Start the conversation early
It might sound a little late, but the earlier you start talking about the possible outcomes, the better. Whether it’s weeks earlier or the night before, the sooner you start building an open, honest dialogue, the more comfortable you will both feel talking about these things, and the more likely your teen will come to you with their worries.
Make a conscious effort to check in with them a little more than usual. Ask how they are feeling or if there is anything they want to talk about. A little extra reassurance can go a long way.
Remember to talk about the positives that have come from the experience so far, rather than just focusing on the upcoming results. Through learning, practising and preparing for their exams, they have already faced a number of challenges and likely successes – not all of which may be evident to them.
Think about their dedication, timekeeping, positive study habits, or any other areas they may have improved in without realising. No matter what their results or plans for the next step, these are all key skills and positive habits that can serve them well.
Avoid vague reassurances
“You’ll be fine!”, “You have nothing to worry about”, “Don’t be silly”. While it might seem natural to feel confident in our children’s abilities, or we may want to downplay our own worries about their results, vague reassurances can be counter-productive. By telling them everything will be fine, teens may feel like you are being dismissive of their worries, that you aren’t listening, or think their concerns aren’t valid.
If they seem anxious or worried, try to talk through their specific worries together. Help them work through the likely outcome in the worst and best case scenarios. Getting a grade lower doesn’t necessarily mean they may have to switch classes, colleges or universities; facing the “what-ifs” that are worrying them can help ease their anxiety and help you both feel more prepared for the results ahead.
If they aren’t ready to talk, let them know you are there when they are ready and respect their need for space.
Prepare for every outcome
Hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst doesn’t mean you are in some way tempting fate, or that you are not confident in your teen’s abilities. So many things can happen on the day that may result in an unexpected outcome – for better or worse.
Having a plan b ahead of the big day can help take some of the pressure off for everyone involved. Whether that’s knowing what other courses, colleges or universities they may be interested in, knowing these things in advance and emphasising that you are proud of them no matter what the outcome can take a huge weight off of their shoulders.
The Telegraph has a particularly useful guide for A-level students about how UCAS clearing works. Taking a quick look ahead of time can be a good way to scope out the availability of courses in their preferred subject. If their results are better than expected, adjustment might be an option to consider.
Whatever happens, be prepared to back off and let them make their own choices. Helping present them with options is one thing; if they would rather find another way or have something else in mind, remember it is their decision.
Know who to talk to on the day
If their results aren’t what they expected, speaking to their teachers or the school or college’s career advisors can be helpful. You can also get in contact with UCAS, the college or university they have applied to. While teachers may be on hand on the day, they could be too busy to talk through the options with you both there and then.
For those collecting GCSE results, it’s worth remembering A-levels aren’t the only pathway available. Many colleges offer a wide variety of apprenticeships and vocational courses. For those collecting A-level results, remember many similar courses at different universities have different entry requirements. Some university’s may offer a foundation year as an option before starting on your chosen course.
The Student Room can be a great place offering advice for teens before GCSE result day, while UCAS have some great pre and post result day advice for teens and parents, outlining some of the options available to them. The National Careers Service also offers information, advice and guidance by email, phone or face-to-face for those picking up their A-level results.
Be prepared to give them space
Not every teen will need (or want) their parents to go with them to pick up their results. Be ready to give them space to share this moment with friends, but let them know you’re on the other end of the phone if they need anything or when they are ready to share the news.
If they are happy for you to go with them or do want the additional support, try not to crowd them. Let them have their moment to celebrate, share, or commiserate together with friends and classmates before diving in with congratulations or words of support.
Keep calm and carry on
Keeping calm might sound like an impossible task. The more anxious or nervous we are, the more likely those around us are to pick up on it. By preparing ahead of time, discovering alternative options, and knowing where to turn for advice and guidance on the day, you should be able to settle your nerves a little. The more prepared you are, the more ready you will feel if your child needs support and advice.
If they don’t get the results they want, focus on if they have the results they need. If they have just missed the results needed, there may still be options; there’s no need to panic – and there’s no rush to get straight on to clearing options. Take the time to regroup, be supportive, and talk through any disappointments or higher achievements before looking at the options in the afternoon or evening.
Try not to...
While there are many things you can do to support your teen on results day, there are also plenty of things that you might want to try and avoid if at all possible. If you can, try to avoid:
Comparing their results with siblings or friends. Just because an older brother or sister did better than expected, doesn’t mean they will have the same outcome. Comparisons can add needless pressure, so avoid where possible. Instead, acknowledge their efforts and focus on their personal growth and achievement, and make sure they know you are proud of them.
Focusing on what could have been. Consider if now is really the right time to focus on what they could have done more or less of. Pausing, reflecting and planning has its place, but when emotions are running high and months of stress and worry are coming to a head, it's unlikely to be the best time for this. Instead, take time to celebrate or talk things through at their pace. Be there in the moment to offer emotional support.
Looking at national trends and early results on social media. We all do it; logging on to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to take a quick look at the headlines. On results day, national trends are likely to dominate the headlines, focusing on the results compared to past years, which subjects have seen a boost in their results, and so on. While it can be tempting, try to wait to check the headlines until after your teen has their results. Looking beforehand won’t change their results, but could increase your (and their) anxiety.
Whatever happens on the day, the most important thing is to let them know you are there, you are proud of them and you love them. A piece of paper is not going to change that.
For more articles about exam stress and anxiety, as well as to find professional help and support, visit Counselling Directory.