The results arrived at your house in an envelope addressed to you, the exam candidate, and could be opened when and where and how you chose.
You could absorb the grades in the privacy of your bedroom or in the company of your parents or a friend or a sympathetic dog, or sitting on your backpack ready to hit the Katmandu trail if it had all gone Pete Tong, as we didn’t say in those days.
Now exam results are news. They are published, dissected, compared, ranked, used as ammunition in local and national educational battles. For the candidates, the degree of interest and scrutiny and the appropriation of results as public property can make a stressful experience even harder to handle.
Your response and your young person’s response to the results will be somewhere on a scale ranging from absolutely delighted to bitterly disappointed. You can manage your immediate reaction, whatever it is, in a way which minimises stress, enables positive communication and helps you both to stay calm.
Acknowledge the person’s feelings
Let your YP take in the information. Listen to their response. Notice their body language. Don’t contradict it. Allow them to have their own reaction to their own results.
Don’t rush in with your interpretation of the results (unless they are precisely what was wanted and expected). If your YP is satisfied with what you think are less than satisfactory grades, let it run for a bit. If they are disappointed with what you think are good results, don’t immediately smother them with reassurances. Accept their emotional state, whatever it is. Intervening too soon will set up a barrier between you and lay you open to accusations of not understanding, not supporting, – oh, you know the rest.
Share your response
Don’t pretend, but be as supportive as you can be. Don’t focus on the worst aspect. You might think ‘What a shame about the D in History’ but saying it doesn’t change the situation.
You could say things like
‘You worked really hard and I’m sorry you’re disappointed.’
‘I’m proud of what you’ve achieved.’
Ask open questions
After the initial response, if there is need for further discussion, begin by keeping the focus on the person. Ask them what they think about the next step, ask them if there is anything you can do, or what they would like you to do. Ask how they feel about celebrating, about sharing the news, about seeing other people. Be prepared for them to say one thing and then change their minds.
When things go wrong, it’s a natural instinct to look for someone to blame. Disappointment with exam results may lead you to blame your YP, yourself, their friends, the school, their teachers, the exam board. It’s probably best to curb this response. It is unlikely that poor (or good) exam performance can be traced to a single identifiable source.
There are processes in place should you feel that you would like the results to be investigated. If you follow this route, look on it as a matter of procedure, not as a hunt for a scapegoat.
Sometimes life just isn’t fair.
Limit your media contact
A-level results will be all over television and the newspapers. They will be on Facebook and Twitter. They will be the subject of thousands of texts. You can choose how much you want to be involved in the national frenzy.
Are you longing to see those images of cute blonde triplets who each got six A*s and the ten-year-olds who got top marks in the whole country for computer science? Me neither.
Keep a sense of perspective
Results’ day is full of tension and drama. The following day is a little less so. There are strategies you can adopt to make this period as stress-free as possible, and you will find suggestions at my post on How to Deal With Exam Results]