Having a back-up in place, with second and third-choice schools, ‘insurance’ university offers, alternative courses, etc can ease exam stress for parents and children. Putting all your hopes on one outcome places everyone under pressure and the strain it creates could be counter-productive.
But Plan B loses some of its stress-reducing properties if it is seen as second-best, an unwelcome compromise or a result of failure. Feeling that you are beginning a particular school or course or university or job because you weren’t good enough for your first option doesn’t set anyone up for a successful ride.
A good way to reduce stress and anxiety about getting the right results is to view all possible outcomes as opportunities. After all, who knows that everything will be hunky dory if your young person does get their first-choice place? And who knows what unexpected benefits might unfold if they have to accept a different outcome?
You may have preferences but you might think about how you present them. The fear of letting you down might be an additional strain on your YP, who will know that no matter how much you say that it won’t matter if they ‘have’ to go a ‘second-choice’ university, you don’t really mean it.
Try not to use words which suggest a dismal compromise. Use positive terminology for all eventualities.
Here’s an exercise you could try, by yourself or with your YP. Make a big Mind Map of all possible outcomes. For every possibility include questions, possibilities, advantages, drawbacks. Use colour and illustrations.Don’t use labels like A-B-C or 1-2-3, which impose a hierarchical form. Just see everything spread out on a level chart. It might actually look and feel positive and exciting. We don’t know what the future holds, but we can be ready to accept its different shapes.