Parents told to keep calm and put the kettle on when A-Level results land

10 August 2020

Parents and families across the country gearing up to support anxious teenagers this Thursday (13 August 2020) when A-level results are published, must avoid taking over and instead adopt a ‘keep calm and carry on’ approach in a year when Covid-19 has already hit many young people hard. 

Psychology and admissions experts at the University of Derby have issued a nine point guide for what they should – and shouldn't – do, including allowing their loved ones to let it all out if they need to and to recognise that the day is not about them, but their teenager. 

In addition to these top tips, produced with Ruth Sims, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, and Dr William Van Gordon, Associate Professor in Contemplative Psychology at the University, they have also created a Parent Advice Pack, to help smoothly navigate this uncharted territory.  

  1. It’s all about them – this is not the time to live your dreams through them, so avoid taking over and remember that this is their future, not yours.
  2. Have a back-up plan - discuss with your teenager what they may want to do if the results aren’t what they were expecting or need. Encourage them to do some research into alternative 18+ options now, so they know they have some other routes, including Clearing, to consider before they get their results. 

  3. Bring stress levels down - if your teenager is showing signs of anxiety or stress in the run-up to results day, try to distract them with activities and avoid bringing up the topic if they don’t want to talk about it. If they do want to talk, then it is important to allow them to do so and validate their feelings by reassuring them that being anxious is very normal while waiting for results.
  4. Keep calm – on the day itself, try to stay calm. If the results are not what they expected, your teenager may well be distressed, angry, confused or demoralised, so they’ll need you to be the voice of reason and calm. 

  5. Let them vent - if they need to vent their feelings or cry, then let them do that. Don’t downplay their responses or tell them to ‘pull themselves together’ or that ‘it doesn’t matter’ – that won’t help!
  6. Help them make the next step – when things are a little calmerput the kettle on, sit them down and remind them of the back-up plan you made earlier. Ask them what they want to do and then support them with following this through. 

  7. Consider Clearing - if your teenager decides to apply for a university place for this September after all, has changed their mind since applying, or has received different results to what they expected, they can apply through Clearing, which opens on A-level results day. You can help them by making sure they have all the relevant information they will need (any account passwords, IDs, university hotline phone numbers, etc) before the day. 
  8. Keep their options open - if Clearing isn’t for them then there are still options to consider including vocational qualifications, apprenticeships, a Foundation year, or year out where they can take time to evaluate what they want to do and where they want to go. The UCAS website is a good place to start.
  9. Celebrate success - if your teenager does get the grades they need/expected – or better – then celebrate long and loud! If anyone mentions grades being inflated due to the circumstances, or that ‘exams are getting easier these days’, make sure they know that that is not how you feel. Let them know that you are proud of the hard work they have put in and that they have earned their grades themselves. 

Dr Van Gordon said: “A-level results day is a time to celebrate and acknowledge your teenager’s hard work, but it can also be a difficult time to cope with mentally, especially if things don’t go exactly as they’d planned.  

“It’s important for parents and families to acknowledge how their teenager is feeling, but ultimately support and guide them in taking the next positive steps, without putting any additional pressure or stress onto them.”  

June Hughes, University Secretary and Registrar at the University of Derby, added: “This is a huge week for students across the country when they anxiously countdown to receiving their A-level results, made even more so by the unprecedented challenges bought on by the current pandemic that we find ourselves in 

“Over the years we have taken thousands of calls during Clearing from students either devastated that they haven’t got into their chosen university, or thrilled that they’ve done better than expected, so can embark on a course that may have originally seemed out of reach.  

“Emotions will undoubtedly be running high, so it’s key that as a parent, carer, friend or family member you’re able to provide the right support, at the right time, to help them make these important decisions about their future.” 

In addition to the Parent Advice Pack, the University of Derby is running a virtual Clearing Wellbeing Festival on its website, packed full of activities to make an otherwise stressful time more manageable for students and their families. 

For further information on Clearing or how to apply for a place at the University of Derby visit

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