COVID-19, Exam Results Day & Your Child’s Mental Heath

For many young people, receiving exam results can be a stressful and anxious time. But the lack of structure and sense of control over their education in recent months has introduced increased levels of anxiety and stress as we approach results day, particularly with exams being cancelled.

The Covid-19 pandemic is the biggest health crisis for generations. In our recent survey with parents, 67% said they are concerned about the long-term impact of the coronavirus on their child’s mental health. And for many young people, what happens now will have a lasting impact on them, for years to come – whether that’s because of traumatic experiences at home, the pressures of isolation, or uncertainty about their education and their future.  

On our parents helpline we often hear from parents around this time with concerns about their child’s emotions and behaviour, anxiety about going to university or their plans for the future. You might notice that your child is behaving differently than normal leading up to getting their results, whether they become withdrawn or loud or exhilarated.  

As a parent or carer, it’s important to keep calm and let your child know you love them, no matter what their results are. It might help to reflect back how they’re probably feeling, such as saying “I can tell you’re worried, that’s perfectly understandable.”, and let them know you’re there to talk if or when they want to. 

It might also benefit them to keep busy and distracted if they’re feeling worried, by planning activities that can help them relax like days out, watching a film or going shopping.

When the results come out, those who have received the results they were hoping for tend to express their relief and joy in the usual way, with celebrations and preparations for the next stage in their lives.

For those who are disappointed with their results, they can feel scared about the future and embarrassed to face their friends and family. This is partnered with feelings of anger, isolation and hopelessness. They can dwell on the disappointment, feel uncertain about what to do next, refuse to talk to others and display extreme behaviour. But on the other end of the scale – after a deep breath – they can decide to move on and focus on creating another plan.

If you’re worried about your child – either they are displaying concerning behaviour that isn’t alleviated within a reasonable time or they are very anxious about moving away from home or starting sixth form – here are some things that can help:

All these feelings could result in every type of behaviour.

Keep calm, especially when your young person’s anticipation is turning into worry or even panic.

  • Accept their feelings, whatever they are – disappointment, anger, embarrassment, bravado. Their feelings are neither right nor wrong, they just are. Don’t offer immediate judgement, or solutions, or even reassurance – there will be plenty of time for conversations later.
  • Reflect back how they are feeling to show you have understood, for example, “I can see you’re disappointed with the Maths result.”
  • Let them know you love them through highs and lows. Big hugs are good (although probably very embarrassing in public).
  • Show you’re on their side - it could be something small like getting their favourite snack.
  • Give yourself some breathing space and time to reflect.
  • Ask the school to help your child explore any possible next steps, such as including re-takes, re-marking or alternative courses.
  • If your child is disappointed with their results, they might also be embarrassed. Agree with your child how they want their results discussed with family and friends, if at all.

For more advice on how to support your child on results day, have a look at our Parents Guide To Support A-Z,  or you can call our helpline on 0808 802 5544.

About the Author

About the Author

This article was created by Deirdre Kehoe, Director of Training and Services at YoungMinds.

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