Advice for parents and carers about the stress of exam results

Updated 20 August 2020

If someone in your family is getting their A Level, AS Level, BTEC or GCSE results this month, they might be feeling anxious and stressed. Having not taken their exams due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, their grades are being worked out in a new way this year.

So, how can you help them to stay calm in the run-up to getting their results and deal with what happens afterwards? The Good Thinking team has created the tips below to help parents and carers and has also developed advice for young people to help with the stress of exam results.

1. Discuss how they are feeling

Your son or daughter might be experiencing nerves, stress, frustration and perhaps even anger because they were not able to take their exams. Explain that these are extraordinary circumstances and remind them that every student across the UK is in the same position.

You might find it useful to reframe the situation and discuss the opportunities that might arise. Universities and colleges might be more flexible about their offers and there might be other avenues to explore, such as apprenticeships. Could you tell them about your own experiences of school, college or university and their impact on your career/life? What obstacles or disappointments did you face and how did you overcome them?

Encourage your child to come to you if they want to discuss any concerns they might have and reassure them that they shouldn’t be worried about telling you if their grades are lower than expected. They might need specific support from you if they go through clearing or have to change their future college or work plans.

Your son or daughter might find our articles on handling uncertainty and dealing with anger useful.

2. Get the facts

On the 17th of August, the Department for Education announced that students in England will receive teacher assessed grades for their GCSE, AS Level and A Level results. Find out more on the UK Government website.

A different grading process has been used for vocational and technical qualifications, such as BTEC and IB. On the 19th of August, Pearson announced that it would be regrading BTECs and asked schools and colleges not to issue any BTEC L1 and L2 results on the 20th of August. Find out more on the UK Government website, the Pearson (BTEC) website and the IB website.

You can, of course, contact your child's school or college if you have specific questions about results day, your child's grades or what happens afterwards. And, if your son or daughter has applied for university, the UCAS website contains useful guidance.

3. Plan a celebration

Results day is a rite of passage for young people and normally involves getting together with all their friends and saying goodbye to their teachers.

This year will be different because of the COVID-19 social distancing guidelines but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate. How about getting them a ‘Congratulations’ card or a small gift from the whole family, in the same way you might have done pre-COVID? Or perhaps you could cook their favourite meal or invite a few friends for a barbecue or picnic?

Marking your child’s achievements can provide an important boost to their mental wellbeing at this challenging time. As well as focusing on their exam results, think about them as a whole person. You might like to remind them what a good friend they are, how resilient they are or how talented they are at a particular sport, for example.

Read Good Thinking’s advice about five ways to good mental wellbeing and share our advice for young people to help with the stress of exam results