Childline sees rise in counselling for Northern Ireland children anxious about exams

NSPCC image - exams
NSPCC image - exams

Childline is offering support to young people worried about exam results as teenagers across the country wait anxiously for AS and A-Level grades published this week.

The NSPCC-run helpline delivered a total of 125 counselling sessions across 2016-2017 to children and young people contacting them from Northern Ireland about exam stress and results worries - up from a total of 110 counselling sessions about exams in 2015-2016*.

Across the UK in 2016-17 there were 3,135 counselling sessions about exam stress, and a further 1,133 about exam result worries. More than a quarter (28%) of counselling sessions about exam result worries took place in August 2016 when GCSE and AS/A-Level results are released.

Many young people told counsellors they were disappointed with themselves and worried their grades might affect them getting into the university or college of their choice, while others were concerned about their parent’s reaction to their results.

Anxiety and low mood were also mentioned when discussing exam results, with some saying they were struggling to cope with the pressure to do well and achieve top grades.

One girl told who contacted Childline said: “I am so worried about my exam results that I feel sick. I studied all day and overnight for them. If I don’t get all As I’ll feel like I’ve let everyone down and my parents will be disappointed. I want to make them proud.”

NSPCC - exam stress

NSPCC - exam stress

A teenage boy said: “I failed one of my exams and I’m so upset. I passed all of the rest but my parents are still really disappointed and have made me feel like stupid and like a failure. I don’t know what to do now. I know I should be pleased with myself but I don’t. I’ve always had low self esteem and this hasn’t helped.”

Head of the NSPCC in Northern Ireland, Neil Anderson, said: “Waiting for exam results can be an anxious time for young people and can leave some struggling to cope. Pressure to achieve good grades and worries about securing further education places and jobs can be too much for some to deal with on their own.

“We’d encourage young people not to be disheartened if they do not get the results they hoped for. It’s important they remember that they have lots of options and that talking to a friend or trusted adult can really help them see this clearly. Childline is also here 24/7 to listen to any young person worried about their results and needing confidential support and advice.”

Dame Esther Rantzen, Founder and President of Childline said: “Young people need to remember that getting good exam grades is not a make or break moment and, whatever your results, there are options and opportunities to make a great future for yourself. This is proved by all the successful people who have made their way in life despite being nowhere near the top of their class.

“The important thing during exam results season is to stick together as a family and be as supportive and encouraging to the person waiting to receive their grades and then planning their next steps. And if they are reluctant to open up about how they are feeling or what they want to do then Childline is always ready to provide help and advice.”

The NSPCC has the following advice for young people:

Don’t panic if you don't get the results you were hoping for

You may have to make some decisions but remember you have options and you can get help.

Everyone is different so try not to compare your results to your friends or classmates

If you're disappointed with your results it can help to talk to a teacher or someone you trust about how you’re feeling.

Advice for parents and carers:

Try not to place unnecessary pressure on your children to gain certain grades

Your child may find it hard to talk to you about their results but be supportive and take time to listen to their worries.

Encourage your child to take their time to think about what they’d like to do. There’s no need to rush into a decision straightaway.

Help them think about their choices by writing down a list of pros and about each of their options.

Children and young people can contact Childline for free, confidential support and advice, 24 hours a day on 0800 1111 or at www.childline.org.uk