Parents across Australia are biting their nails today, with the release of the HSC results set to ratchet up the excitement and tension in every household that includes a 12th grader.
And it's wonderful when your child's results are as good as, or better than you all hoped they'd be. Suddenly, their horizons look endless, their opportunities for success many and varied.
But what about when the results aren't what they hoped for? Or worse – what happens if they bomb out completely?
First, get things into perspective. Exam results can't and don't define an entire human being.
"[The ATAR score] is a grade on a piece of paper (or a screen) which is culmination of two years of study but tells us very little about the individual who achieved that grade," child and adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg told Be.
"It does not measure the worth of that individual, their character, wit, ideas, intelligence, kindness, attributes, skills and all of the things that make them the person they are. It tell us how good you are at studying for or taking exams."
Unfortunately, Michael added, it's common for adolescents to measure themselves by their school marks.
"Many young people define themselves by their academic achievement, using grades as a marker of self-esteem," he said, adding that lower than hoped for marks can leave students with, "a belief that they are their ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Ranking)."
If your child hasn't reached the marks they were anticipating, Michael had some practical advice on how to move forward.
"Stress that a poor result is not the end of the world," he said. "Don't shy away from the disappointment your child is feeling. Encourage them to talk about it.
Suggest talking to a careers counsellor to find out alternate paths available."
After all, plenty of adults in the real world have been able to build successful careers despite less-than-stellar school marks.
"Explain – preferably with real examples – that many successful people have taken 'a zig-zag route' to reach their goals," Michael said.
"Failing exams doesn’t make you any less of a person, any less intelligent, or any less able to achieve what you want to, than those who may have gotten better results in their exams than you."
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