Ricochet News

Matric parents: first reactions last

Dec 19, 2016
Matric parents: first reactions last

The anxious wait for the 2016 Matric results has started in thousands of homes across South Africa, where for many the December holidays will be a little more stressful than usual, particularly where there is concern over a learner’s performance.

An education expert says it is very important that parents and caregivers prepare themselves so that when the results are released, they are equipped to assist and support disappointed learners in the best way possible.

“The December holidays will be a bittersweet one for families of those Matrics who know that their results are not likely to meet expectations – either because the learner did not do that well, or because their performance may not be good enough to get access to studies toward a sought-after qualification,” says Nola Payne, Head of Faculty: Information and Communication Technology at The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s largest private higher education provider.

Payne warns that the way adults manage these next few weeks, and ultimately the way they respond when results are revealed, can significantly impact on the resilience of Matriculants following a disappointment. 

“This coming period will pave the way for the future response, and determine the nature of the conversations that can be held to plan the next steps. This will significantly impact the way that the disappointment is experienced and managed,” she says.

It is particularly important to remember that, although the adults may also feel deeply disappointed, they have to manage their own emotions and remember that their first words and reactions may leave a lasting impact.

“The first thing to do is for the adults to take stock and consider their unified position so that the energy can be focused on the learner and not on resolving parental or family disputes,” says Payne. 

“Tension will increase as the results release day approaches and may include higher levels of anger and aggression as part of a defensive mechanism against the expected parental responses,” she says.

“Now is the time to just reflect on what may be behind the behaviour with comments such as, ‘you seem really stressed – do you want to talk?’.”

Other symptoms of stress, such as depression or social withdrawal, or even health issues such as headaches may increase, says Payne.

“Responsible adults are encouraged to ask direct questions such as when and where and how the young person will access their results. Build your plans around those of the young person.  Share your own feelings of anxiety and normalise it, for instance by saying: ‘I am feeling stressed about your results too but remember we can figure this out together and take it from there.’ Reaffirm your unconditional acceptance of the young person.”

Importantly, parents and caregivers should begin to talk about other options in such a manner that the student understands that “bad” results are not the end of the world. 

“Prepare yourself with information of what the other options could be – this is a fine line to walk as it can be disheartening to feel that your family has given up on you, and the fact is that results may be better than the worst expectations so it is really all about balance.

“If your child has not shared results with you for several hours after they have been released, then you need to ask. One way or another the family cannot manage the situation if it is not out in the open.  If there is an angry reaction, then it is best to respond again with empathy and let the mood settle before asking again.”

Payne says parents should take note of three practical steps to handle stress about results:

    • Find out if the child wants to see their results before you do or whether they are happy to share the experience with you.
    • Remind them that the results do not define who they are and share their good qualities. Love is unconditional and they need this reassurance.
    • Start discussing their options for further study or life after school.

On the day, prepare the learner:

    • Encourage them to not compare themselves to their peers, friends and siblings.
    • Remind them that they worked hard and all you can expect from them is effort, hard work and dedication.
    • Remind them that there are many options for next year, and that you are going to plot the best route together.