Saturday morning saw the release of OP results for our year 12 young men and women. For those of you yet to experience the ups and downs of the final year of schooling prepare yourself for an emotional roller coaster.
The culmination of 12 years of effort, assignments, exams, sport and music ends with a number – a single or double digit. That’s it. A placing amongst your peers in the ‘race of success’. There is no preparation or gentle preamble. Log onto a website and within a millisecond your result pops up on the screen in big writing. It has to be one the most confronting things I’ve observed.
So then, how do we support our young people through the potential disappointment of missing out on their dream course?
- Empathy: They will feel elated or shocked, upset, angry and disappointed. Whatever they are feeling is OK and normal, so let them feel it. Validate them, don’t try to sugar coat it or make it better. “You didn’t get what you expected after all that hard work, you know what, I’d be fed up too, that sucks”.
- Space: Leave them alone for a bit to process what’s just happened. It will take time to digest.
- Trust: Give your son or daughter the courtesy of confidentiality. Of course as parents we are proud of our children, however it’s not our news to share, it’s theirs. Puffing up our own ego off the back of our children is not psychologically healthy for us and especially not healthy for them. Likewise if they didn’t get the result they wanted, put yourself in their shoes, the last thing you would want is to tell the world, especially your mate’s Mum.
- Growth: Once the dust has settled reinforce the fact that a number does not define who they are as a person. In fact nothing outside of them can define who they are. This is a great growth opportunity and one of the steps into adulthood. It’s now their time to start to define themselves as people.
- Reassure: Bust the ‘less than’ myth. Supply and demand, not ability, dictates eligibility. A similar course at a smaller, less popular university may provide more personal attention and potentially be a better option, especially if studying is a challenge. At the end of the first year, a good GPA enables easy transfer to another institution and/or course.
- Perspective: After this week, OP becomes an irrelevant distant memory. Time to start anew and have some fun at university. School is over! These will be the best years of growing, learning and hopefully a little bit of partying.
Parenting through challenging times can be stressful. You are not alone. There is support out there. Trusted friends or family can be a lifeline or come and see someone like me.
Dr Jacqueline Harness MBA PhD
Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors
Jackie is a personal counsellor, mentor and leadership coach who works with teenagers, adults and corporate teams.
Feel free to contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.