Leaving Cert results: Tips for parents on handling the pressure…

August 11th 2015

Parent_Tips_ChalkboardTomorrow, across Ireland students will be readying themselves for their Leaving Cert results. We know from the My World Survey that having One Good Adult is a key factor in helping young people to negotiate life’s challenges. Dr Gillian O’Brien from Headstrong has the following tips for parents to help them be that One Good Adult for young people receiving their Leaving Cert results: ‌• When you’re 17, the Leaving Cert is one of life’s big hurdles. Remember that emotions can be fraught. So make sure that as a parent you also manage your own stress around this time. ‌• Take your lead from your son or daughter. This is a big moment in their life and they will remember it for many years to come. If you react badly, you don’t want that to be the one thing they remember. ‌• Separate out your feelings from those of your child. It’s your role to stay calm and to keep a sense of perspective. Life experience has probably shown you that time changes how we perceive life events, the importance shifts that we attribute to something that once seemed all important. ‌• It’s okay for them to feel disappointed, upset or angry. As a society we have become fearful of so called ‘negative’ emotions. Learning to negotiate life’s challenges is important in building a young person’s resilience, so keep this in mind. Don’t dismiss their emotional reaction to their results, and try to avoid telling them how they should feel at this moment. Instead, focus on asking them how they are feeling and listen more than talk. ‌• Make them feel ok about themselves. That doesn’t mean that you are condoning their behaviour if they didn’t study, but make it clear to them that these results aren’t the full measure of them as a person. The time for reviewing how hard they worked, or otherwise is not on the day of the results. It’s a topic you can come back to in a few days or weeks’ time. At first, it’s simply more important to be around and available to give support. ‌• Be aware that what may seem like a good result to you may be perceived as disappointing to your son or daughter, or the other way around. Young people who we see in our Jigsaw youth mental health services frequently tell us that they feel dismissed by adults in their lives. You run the risk of making them feel that you don’t understand their experience, if you move too quickly. Ask them what might be helpful – to just sit there and listen? To distract them? Let them know that there are options, but that you can come back to them once the news sunk in. We also have some tips for young people to help them be prepared on the day, as well a parent's view and a student's view on what it is like when waiting for Leaving Cert results. Headstrong is leading the change across Ireland in youth mental health. Through research, engagement and service provision in the form of Jigsaw, we represent a new approach to promoting and supporting youth mental health.