How to manage expectations at results time

managing exam results

While the general cost of COVID-19 is still being counted, there is little doubt the crisis will leave an imprint on all students who sit exams and do assessments throughout the school year. The disruption to routines and exam preparation will likely affect even the most diligent learner, and there’s a chance that the uncertainties we’re experiencing this year could be reflected in your child's results.

Great Expectations = real expectations

While it’s normal to want your child to achieve strong results, given the current circumstances it's a good idea to adjust your expectations. Once you’ve accepted and taken into account the impact of coronavirus, you’ll be able to get on the front foot with your child when discussing expectations, even before results time swings around. If they can tell you’re aware of the disruptions they’re facing and are not heaping pressure on them to still perform in the same way, chances are they’ll feel less stressed and anxious.

When it comes to actually getting results, there are lots of ways you can support your teenager if your expectations or theirs haven’t been met.

  • Reassure them about the future. As the world continues to grapple with what life will look like on the other side of COVID-19, it may feel like a tough sell to excite your child about the future. But you can use this time to reinforce the point that exams aren't the end of the world. As so many of us are learning right now, circumstances can change quickly, and success will always be the sum of more than just good exam results. Remind them that plenty of people perform poorly in exams and go on to achieve great things. Even Einstein failed some subjects and flunked his first uni entrance exam! It also pays to remember that the COVID-spanner has caused issues for all students, and educators are acknowledging the toll it's taken. Many universities and TAFES are working on contingency plans and alternate acceptance options – including looking at Year 11 results for school leavers.

  • Be comfortable with failure. This is especially relevant considering the aftershocks of COVID-19, with many people finding themselves out of work and associating this with 'failure'. The reality is that everyone fails sometimes, and the sooner we learn this lesson in life, the better we'll become at embracing our slip-ups and our successes. Give your child some examples of when you've messed up (and what you did to get through it), and let them know that making mistakes is a normal – if embarrassing – part of life. They’ll gain confidence from hearing about your setbacks and embarrassments!

  • Reflect on how things went. Get them to write a list of what went well and what could be better next time. In the future, they can focus on doing more of what went well and try to improve the things that could have been better.

  • Give them space. If they're disappointed, that's okay; they've got the right to be. We're living through an incredibly unprecedented and uncertain time. Give them space to reflect on the situation, how it affected them, how they reacted, and what that means in the context of their lives. Then you can figure out together what positive things to do next.

  • Acknowledge the context. If your teen has had a tough time with exam results, it's a good idea to sit down and talk about the environment they had to prepare in. By recognising that the disruption of COVID-19 may have contributed to how they performed, you'll take a weight off their shoulders. By alleviating some of this guilt, you can then focus on looking to the future together.

See how parents' reactions helped when their kids failed

Parents are a really valuable source of support for teenagers during exam time. Regardless of what the end results are, teenagers will value having their parents by their side giving them with tips on how to deal with exam failure. Some teenagers spoke to us about their positive experiences with their parents when results came out:

Read the transcript

Some key takeaways from the video are:

  • Openness and acceptance help. Teens can feel stressed and worthless when they’ve tried but failed to meet expectations. Encouraging your child to be honest about how they feel, and accepting and acknowledging their effort can be really helpful to you both.

  • Being supportive makes a difference. When a child fails an exam, they may be devastated and disappointed, as well as nervous of their parent’s reaction. Being supportive of your child and what they want to do at this time can make all the difference to how they move on.

  • Encouraging their interests works. Exam stress and anxiety can be overwhelming, to the point that it affects a child’s ability to pass exams. You can help your child move on from failure by talking to your child about their passions and how they might go about following them.

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