Exam results day is a nail-biting time for many young people but especially so this year, as the coronavirus crisis meant that all exams were cancelled.
The furore around teacher-assessed GCSE and A-level results being marked down by a controversial grading system has led to worry for many about what their futures will hold, even though the government has U-turned on the issue.
Many mental health services have seen an increase in young people who are suffering with issues of loss and grief as a result of this change in educational routine, with major milestones such as proms, leavers’ days and exams cancelled. Many students feeling lost, confused and cheated out of an experience which has traditionally been seen as a rite of passage for any teenager. Teenagers will be facing a wide range of emotions as they approach their results day - excitement, nervousness, disappointment, resentment, anger, stress, relief and guilt. All these feelings and responses are valid and normal.
This year, although exams were cancelled, Childline, which is part of the NSPCC, says it has seen an increase in calls from students concerned about their results.
Some of the common concerns highlighted during counselling sessions include:
Feeling anxious, overwhelmed and stressed at the news that exams had been cancelled.
Struggling to cope with uncertainties and no longer feeling in control of exam results.
Feeling cheated and robbed of opportunity to do exams.
Regretting they had not taken mocks seriously, and wishing they had revised more.
Concerned that coursework and predicted grades would not be good enough.
So, how can we cope with the range of emotions of exam results day and beyond? Here are 9 tips to help:
1. It is normal to feel anxious about receiving your results
Remember that you are not alone. Your friends are likely to be nervous too, even if they are hiding their feelings. Your older relatives will have been through similar nerves when they received their results. It is important not to bottle up your feelings - talk to a trusted friend, a relative, or a teacher about how you feel.
2. Think about your next steps
Your results are likely to lead to another experience in life, whether this is moving onto a job or further qualifications. However, you may not get the results you want or need to do this. Having a plan B will help you feel more in control. Remember that if Plan A doesn’t work, there are another 25 letters in the alphabet!
3. Don’t feel pressured to share your results
With the excitement of the day, there may be increased pressure from your friends to share your results.
But your results are your own private information and you should only share them if you feel comfortable. It might help you to avoid social media for a few days to avoid some of that pressure.
4. Only ever judge your success by your own standards
Effort is far more admirable that attainment. Be proud of any improvements and if you know you have done your best, that is all that matters.
5. Avoid unhealthy habits
Drinking, smoking, drug-taking or punishing yourself through self-harming behaviours and poor diet won’t make a problem disappear. These are all temporary solutions to a longer-term problem. These unhealthy habits might even make things worse in long run. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you are struggling with any of these behaviours.
6. Be kind to yourself
Practise talking kindly to yourself and be your own best friend and motivator. Compliment yourself on any small achievements and focus on the things you have done well.
7. Remember that there will be future opportunities
You might feel cheated out of an experience this year and that you haven’t had a chance to prove your worth in some way. However, you might be able to take your exams at a later date. Or you can just use these grades as a springboard to other opportunities for success, such as moving on to further or higher education.
8. Remember exam grades do not define you and do not define your future
This is just one small piece of the very large puzzle of your life. Some of the most successful people you know, or have seen in the media, failed at some point in their life. It was their mistakes, followed by determination, that made them grow.
9. Celebrate your achievements
And even if you do not quite get the grades you had hoped for, celebrate anyway. Celebrate that you have done your best. Celebrate that you have finished school. Celebrate that you are wonderful in so many other ways which cannot be measured by grades. If celebrations cannot be as big as you might have hoped for due to social distancing, find small ways to mark your celebrations at home.
For more help and advice about young people's mental health, take a look at resources available via fellow charities such as national Mind, Young Minds and Childline. https://www.teenagementalhealth.co.uk/post/exam-results-day-stresses-surprises-and-uncertainty