My daughter’s anxiety about the Leaving is getting worse. Is this normal?

Ask Brian: Try easing the pressure by emphasising the range of options she has

There are excellent career and study options available to every school leaver, no matter what grades they achieve. Photo: iStock

There are excellent career and study options available to every school leaver, no matter what grades they achieve. Photo: iStock

 

My daughter is a fairly average student who has always enjoyed school and never worried unduly about exams. Now, in her Leaving Cert year, she has become progressively more anxious. She sometimes has difficulty even going into school on some days. Is this normal?

Your daughter’s anxiety is not unusual and I have answered similar call from numerous parents over the years.

In an effort to motivate students to realise the importance of the Leaving Cert in shaping their future, many teachers spell out quite forcefully the implications of not giving 100 per cent commitment to their studies .

For a specific cohort of student, the ringing of such alarm bells may be a prerequisite to trigger a strong work ethic.

But, for some more sensitive students, such warnings may can lead to a greater sense of uncertainty over their capacity to make a successful transition from second level education to adult life.

When I have sat down with such students, I have always acknowledged the validity of argument of teachers who encourage giving total commitment to achieving the best result possible.

All our career journeys through life are a series of incremental decisions, taken one at a time

But, I go on to say that there will be excellent options available to every school leaver, no matter what grades they achieve when they open that envelope next August.

All our career journeys through life are a series of incremental decisions, taken one at a time, with each one reshaping us gradually and laying the groundwork for the next change of role or occupation down the road.

Try sitting down with your daughter and tell her that you expect no more of her than that to continue to work as she has done throughout her school life, and that she will have lots of options open to her whatever her result.

If she is considering a CAO application, reassure her that she has until late June to finalise those choices. The third level sector is also rapidly expanding the numbers of places and courses which offer reserved places to level five and six graduates of further education courses.

The apprenticeship model is currently expanding rapidly, as are traineeships. Many firms are recruiting school leavers and progressing them up through their organisations through hands-on experience and part-time education often online.

There has rarely been a better time to be young in Ireland facing into a working world being reshaped daily by human ingenuity, creating occupations that were the stuff of science fiction a few short years ago.

Those of us who are privileged to work with young people like your daughter need to be mindful that in advising them of the need to use the coming months effectively, that we don’t lose perspective and make the Leaving Cert out to be more than it is. Remember: it’s just another bend in the river of life which will carry us onwards to adulthood.