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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 August, 2004, 14:24 GMT 15:24 UK
Parents' guide to surviving GCSEs
By Katherine Sellgren
BBC News Online education staff

stressed dad
Is the stress building up?

As the waiting game draws to an end and teenagers discover how they have fared in their GCSEs, how can parents survive the experience?

With the clock ticking down to results day, teenagers may be feeling understandably touchy and nervous, but spare a thought for all those parents treading the tricky path of not upsetting their adolescent offspring.

A big day for the young people themselves, results day is a turning point for parents too.

Educational psychologist Ruth Coppard says the whole event can be quite traumatic for parents.

Reassure your children that... they've failed an exam, not you the parent
Suzie Hayman
"There's an enormous sense of, 'My goodness, this is my baby', only it isn't. So there's a separation and bereavement going on as parents realise their children are growing up," says Mrs Coppard.

"Technically they could be autonomous, they could even go and get married. Even if they stay in school, they're not school children in the same way.

"It's a very clear stage - now you have to look at them as potential adults and these results underline that in a big way."

Parental protection

GCSE results day can be hard for parents as they realise they are not fully equipped to advise their children on their future.

"It's the beginning of restricting their options and you want to help them, but you're discussing decisions that'll affect them in 2060. Now what do we know about how things will be like then?" Mrs Coppard says.

Then there is any parent's instinct to shield their children from hurt.

"You desperately want to protect you child and it may be the first time you realise you can't, especially if the results are poor.

"There's a feeling of frustration because you can't know what they're going through and you can't take it away."

Praise the effort

Agony aunt Suzie Hayman from Parentline Plus urges parents not to tell their children off if they do badly.

"Don't have a row or tell them they should have done more work. Don't panic, exams can always be re-sat, whatever the result it's not the end of the world," says Ms Hayman.

"Reassure your children that they are not a failure and that they've failed an exam, not you the parent."

Suzie Hayman
Suzie Hayman says results day is a transition for youngsters
Ms Hayman recommends parents focus on the hard work young people have put in for their exams.

"Don't necessarily celebrate a result, but the effort. Even when the results are good, celebrate the effort.

"Love the child for themselves and celebrate the work they've put in, otherwise you can sow the seeds of 'We only love you if you succeed'."

Ms Hayman says parents should remember that results day is also a transition period for youngsters.

"Children may be anxious about the next step, about returning to school, and this comes into focus when exams are all over.

"Also, when exams are over, families can find other problems which have been temporarily swept under the carpet come to the surface again."

As for the waiting game, Ms Hayman suggests a family day out or a special family meal purely to celebrate that the fact that the long wait is over.

"Recognise everyone in the family will be affected by this, everyone is under stress - older ones, younger ones, so make allowances for that."

The Parentline Plus free helpline, open 24 hours, is 0808 800 2222. E-mails are answered at contact@parentlineplus.org.uk

Is there a nervous wait for GCSE results in your household? Send us your comments.

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Disclaimer: The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published.

Here is a selection of the comments received:

I was impressed with the way my daughter revised without being told, so regardless of the results I know my daughter has put a lot of effort and will be proud of her no matter what she achieves. Her determination will help her through the rest of her life.
William Acklam,

I have to pick up my son's results on Thursday as he is away on holiday. I'm being very pessimistic and dreading what I shall see primarily I guess because I don't have a lot of faith in today's education system. Somewhere deep down I hope he has done well so he can continue onto the college course he wants to do and then I can praise him highly. I can never remember being this nervous when my own O-level results were due through the door all those (uh-hum) years ago.
John Burns, Haverhill, UK

I am a GCSE pupil awaiting my results and am extremely nervous as I do so. Although my parents have always been proud of me I feel I might let them down if I don't get the 'right' results. they have told me as long as I try my best then that's fine but they have also been dropping hints that they expect top marks from me, so I feel sick with worry that I have probably let them and my family down. I am now dreading results day as I'm thinking the worst.
Jess, Llanelli, Wales,

Having taken GCSEs four years ago, I can say I remember the day I got my results well. Although I got mostly Cs and was upset, it didn't seem to matter to anyone. I still ended up going to the sixth form where I wanted to go, and from there I still got three A-levels (albeit at C and below). The most important thing is to reassure them that the media isn't always right, and just because it says that lots of people are getting As more often, doesn't mean that they must be below average (the pressure is that As are now 'average' - without them, you are 'below average'). If that fails, make it clear that there is more than one way to succeed in whatever they want to do (for example Sir Richard Branson and his lack of qualifications).
Edwin Jefferson, UK

Actually... I'm a 16 year old, waiting for the results... and I don't feel too stressed! My parents are teachers, and they use every available opportunity to tell me that A-levels will be the hardest exams I will ever do, and that I should concentrate on them. Good luck everyone with their results though!!
Gareth, Herts, England

When I was waiting for my GCSE results- five years ago now, my sister was waiting for her A-level results at the same time! My poor mum and dad who had to put up with both of our mood swings and arguments. My sister and I rarely argue but that particular summer must have been hell for them. Thanks mum and dad for being the best supportive parents- and walking on eggshells around us while we waited for our results!
Samantha Harris, London, UK

Seeing that GCSE results day is tommorrow, I'm scared for it, not because I'm worried I'll do rubbish, but because of the fact my dad told everyone we know how "amazing" I will do in my GCSEs. Regardless of what I told him (Itold him I'm only going to get one A and rest Cs) he chooses to ignore this and tells everyone that I will get straight As! this puts more pressure on me because I know that those people he told will phone me the next day to ask how well I have done, and after I tell them my results (which, to me is actually quite good results), they'll be disappointed. So I am worried about it.
chiraag suchak, stockport

I'm waiting for my results tomorrow and I'm really nervous and anxious right now.I don't think that my parents are at all stressed about tomorrow, but I know they do care because I care about them and my future.But I have to say it's worse for us then for our parents because they are not waiting for the results,which determine whether we can go on the further education or not or do something else.
Marie, Ashton Under Lyne,Lancs

Remember waiting for mine. Went with a mate. Some of us did well some did badly. But it only affected us then - two days later they were forgotten about! Don't worry about it dudes and chill out!
Reenyroo, Harrow

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