A little helping hand that helps the Big Picture for our young people – with the exams over it’s listening time for now

In most families with teenagers who are at key points of their education and who are taking vital examinations the summer, the focus since the start of the year has been on examination preparation and related matters. Now that the exams are coming to an end, I’m sure your sons and daughters can’t wait to just ‘chill-out’ a bit, as they say. As for us parents, it’s only a matter of time before we start to think beyond the end of the exams.

Make sure there is plenty of food in the fridge!

For the next three months or so our job is to make sure that we replenish the fridge, whilst our sons and daughters are very happy to indulge in ensuring that the fridge is empty of food as soon as possible!

The questions we ask

For those young people who have just finished major examinations, we parents are thinking about matters such as: what will he/she do all summer? What will the exam results be like? Will he/she get onto the course/ college/university of his/her choice? What about the long-term future – will he/she do well and secure a good job/how long will he/she be living at home for and will I need to start saving up to help him/her buy a flat? We ask all these questions all the time during their childhood and the parents whose children have not been taking major examinations ask them too.

The next step

All the above questions are important but some of them are not as urgent as others. The ones that need acting on now are the ones about the next step, and the next step for each young person is different as it depends on the stage in the education system which your son or daughter is at.

As parents are we are only just catalysts?

As parents, we can’t do the exams for our children and we also have limited powers in influencing the choice they make on very important issues such as: which university they choose to go to or which course they choose to study at the university. We can only act as a catalyst – which tries to help to achieve a successful outcome.  In Chemistry, the definition of a catalyst is “a substance that helps to increase the rate of a chemical reaction without itself undergoing a permanent change.” If we describe the process of a child going through the education system, all the way to the time when they become an adult as a sort of a chemical reaction or process, in some cases the role of the parent(s) can be more than that of a catalyst. The depletion of our bank balance is one thing – another thing is the emotional roller coaster that we go through at various times in their young lives – which can have a lasting effect on us.

Sometimes you must let your child make a mistake

Many of the decisions that young people have to make are very important. We cannot possibly influence everything, and even if we can, we should not. There are times when the best thing we can do as parents is to act as an observer – knowing full well that this young woman or man is making a mistake – but to let them make it, as it is the best way to learn.  Most of the time, there is room for correction at some point down the line  – although sometimes there isn’t.

In cases where we can help to influence the outcome, being armed with the right information will go a long way in helping us to help our sons and daughters. At this time of the year, when the examinations are just over, any advice we give ought to be timely and done in a very gentle way. It must never be seen as if we are pressuring them. We should not advise immediately after the exams either as there has to be a time lapse before that happens.

Just listen and offer no advice

What to do in the first week or two following the end of the examinations is  to just try to persuade them to share with you their experience of the last few weeks when they have been taking exams. It is absolutely critical for you as a parent, at this stage, to ensure that you do not give any advice or make suggestions – at least for the next few weeks. Let them recover from all the emotions associated with exams. What you need to do at the moment is just listen and make sure that you do listen and say very little, apart from showing understanding and empathy. That breathing space is important, as you have more time to give advice in the coming weeks.  It is not good to just ignore them either. Speak to your child but don’t talk about the next step or advise them yet. You must be seen to be listening – at least for now!

In the next blog – I will be looking at possible activities that young people could be doing over the summer break. The good news is that some of those do not necessarily result in you having to dig deep into your pocket.

Please do comment on this blog as your comments are highly appreciated.