Being a parent of a leaving cert student is not easy.
Having gone through a year struggling with your cranky exam-riddled teen, when the big “LC” is all finally over you’re then left to fret about their results for the entirety of the summer.
Thankfully all that hassle ends as soon as your child gets their results. You can relax from there on out, right?
Now you have to deal with the aftermath of the results; either you get to join in in their delight and help them pick out an outfit for that evening’s celebrations, or you have to comfort them in their devastation and disappointment.
After that day is over, surely then you can relax?
Now comes the decision making and the subsequent tears, especially in the face of insufficient exam points.
Whatever way things work out, here are some snippets of wisdom and advice from qualified guidance counsellor and eternal voice of reason, Jenny Blayney.
Waiting, wishing, hoping
Maybe you’ve managed to raise an incredibly mature child; one with an solid sense of self and rational perspective of the world at large. Maybe you’re relaxing around the tv tonight, basking in the calm acceptance that there’s nothing more anyone can do at this point; “the Leaving Cert Gods will reveal all”.
If this truly is your reality, then kudos to you. Most parents, however, will not be so lucky.
The reality for most will be a night spent calming down a wound-up, anxious teenager who is overcome with the terror that they didn’t do enough to secure their “dream course”; convinced that their entire life will be doomed as a result. This state of apprehension undeniably creates tunnel vision; they’re throwing around statements like “either I get Medicine in UCC or I am resitting the entire leaving cert next year” and crying “I’ll be lucky if I get a triple digit result!”.
It’s here that they need you to help them see the light.
Separate their results from their own intrinsic worth
Maybe your child is anxious because they are unsure about the courses they put down on their CAO form. Maybe they’ve realised that they only picked Commerce in UCD because their friends were doing that. Maybe they’re kicking themselves for not putting down more courses on the Level 6 and 7 list, or wishing they had listed certain courses in a different order.
The reasons for turmoil at this point in time are endless, but according to Jenny, “the best thing you can do right now, is to help your child to separate their leaving cert results from their own intrinsic worth as human beings”.
Having worked as a guidance teacher for many years, Jenny says that disappointed students need to be continually reassured that their leaving cert results do not and will not define them as people.
“Remind them that their results are not a measure of their value as a person. They need to hear you tell them that you love them and that they are incredible unique human beings with so much too offer and that an exciting life ahead awaits them irrespective of this exam”.
Above all, Jenny stresses that parents need to give their child hope;
“No matter what results they get or what course is offered to them, they need to know that this will not define them or their life path”.
Just a stepping stone
Ask any adult and they’ll agree that the leaving cert exam is only one stepping stone in a series of stepping stones through life’s path. If you’re child is worried about their results, give them examples of people you know who did not do exceptionally well in the leaving cert or who didn’t get into their desired CAO course/ Remind them that these people all went on to live happy, fulfilled, successful lives nonetheless.
Jenny’s final piece of advice? “YOU need to believe all of the above too”. Try to stay calm and have some faith that whatever results young Sinéad or Liam gets, they’ll find their way in the end. All they need is some support and love from you as they find their way.
Jenny Blayney will be working on the National Parents’ Council helpline - which you can free phone here. This helpline is manned by qualified, registered guidance counsellors who can provide support and advice to parents and students alike at this time.
Look out for tomorrow’s article which will provide a range of options that your child can take if they don’t get the results they had hoped for.