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Advice for Parents

For school leavers, this time of year can be one of great excitement or bitter disappointment. Some students will have learned they will be able to proceed along their chosen path as planned. Other students, however, will have discovered that they are going to need to find a different way of reaching their goal. This can be an extremely unsettling and distressing time.

Knowing that they have the support and encouragement of their parents is likely to be extremely important. Now is definitely not the time to point out to them how well their friends did or how much better they might have done if they’d studied a bit harder.

Although this might seem obvious, you, as a parent, may also be extremely disappointed for your son or daughter and might feel tempted to offer advice or suggestions to help the situation. This strategy could well be useful at a later stage but is unlikely to improve the current situation.

Adolescents will deal with this disappointment in different ways and in different time periods. With support and encouragement, most adolescents will develop new goals or find different ways of achieving established goals. They might even end up better off than they had originally anticipated

Some things you can do at this time that might be helpful are:

  • Be available
  • Listen lots, advise little
  • Spend time together doing something you both enjoy
  • Don’t minimise the situation – if it feels terrible to them now, it probably is. That doesn’t mean it will always be terrible.

Although most school-leavers will be able to successfully resolve their disappointment with the help and support of families and friends, some might need additional support. Periods of withdrawal, irritability, teariness, apathy, lack of motivation, and recklessness can be quite normal at this time.

If these kinds of things continue for an extended period of time however, get in touch with people who are knowledgeable in this area. Even if you have some concerns you’d like to talk over, it’s better to act sooner rather than later.

Advice courtesy of headspace ACT at the University of Canberra.