A Message to Students in the Thick of Exams …

A Message to Students in Their Final Year of School

We’re behind you, cheering you on to the finish line. You might be feeling stressed, overwhelmed, confused and so damn tired – we understand that, but keep going. Give it everything you’ve got – you’re nearly there – and know that whatever happens next, you’ve got what it takes for an amazing life. Your final grades won’t change that. 

During the next few weeks, remember that nothing that happens now has to determine what happens next. The potential in you is breathtaking, whether you’ve realised it yet or not. There will be choices, twists and turns in your path, and a lot of that path won’t be anything like you imagined. That’s one of the beautiful things about life. Sometimes things will work out exactly as you thought, and sometimes things will be different. It’s in the unexpected that the magic happens so take notice of your disappointments – they are often opportunities, disguised as something else. 

As you sit down to your exams you owe it to yourself to work hard and do your best, but know that the results won’t be a measure of you. There is no exam, block of exams, or assessment that will even come close to showing what you are capable of, or the life that’s waiting for you.

Exams will test your memory and your understanding of a particular concept, not your intelligence. They’ll show you what you are capable of during one particular hour of one particular day in one particular subject. It might be a subject that lights up your potential, or it might not.   

Education is powerful, but some of the most powerful things your time at school would have given you won’t be found on the periodic table or between the dog-eared pages of a maths book. Your education given you the capacity to have a voice and a presence – whether that’s through the way you use words, the way you create, the way you play sport or perform – or maybe it’s something else. It’s shown you that setbacks are temporary, disappointment doesn’t last and enough courage can lift you out of anywhere. It’s given you opportunities to flourish your resilience and your wisdom about the way the world works. It’s shown you a lot – a lot – about people, and given you insight that can only come from experiencing good ones and not so good ones. It’s taught you about the relationships to seek out and the ones to steer clear of – you’ll come across plenty of both. 

Hopefully, above all else, it’s taught you that you can learn anything and do anything when you put in the effort.

You may not have found whatever it is that ignites you yet. For you, that might be yet to come. Know that in you is everything you need to set the world on fire. Whether you realise it or not, it’s there – I promise you.

It’s important to work hard and give it everything you’ve got, but know that there are so many more things about you that will determine the life you have. Most of the things, if not all of the things that will make you successful, happy and give you a wonderful life will not be measured by the exams you’re about to take. 

They can’t test the person you are. They can’t test the way people you haven’t met yet will want to know you, love you, have you as part of their team or leading it. They can’t test your creativity, your courage, your wisdom, your resilience or your intelligence. You have the potential for greatness – whatever that looks like for you. Don’t let a grade tell you otherwise. Here’s why …

Your brain is going through a growth spurt – a massive one. It’s been on fire since you were about 12 and it will keep going until you’re about 24, so you’re only halfway through. You might not have yet discovered some of the things you’ll be good at. Your brain is hungry to learn and the exciting thing is that you’re about to enter a stage of your life where you get to decide what to feed it. You get to decide what to learn, what to excel at, where to put your time and energy. 

Right now, and for about the next 6 years, your brain is primed to learn, grow, strengthen and help you become whatever you want to be. Don’t worry if you don’t know what that is yet. There’s time for that. In the meantime, be open to new things – new people, new places, new experiences, new adventures, new ideas and see which ones feel right. Everybody has it in them to be great at something. Don’t let a test, an assessment, a person, a mistake or a bad grade tell you anything different. 

You have incredible power to open all sorts of doors and shape the life you want. This power is yours and nobody can take it from you. It’s yours regardless of the marks you get. You can’t even know the doors you’ll open, and you’ll find the way to open them whether you get the grades you want or not.  You don’t have to have it all figured out yet. 

Your path will be crooked, unexpected and beautiful, which is exactly the way it should be. Don’t let any of the bends or detours change your belief in your own potential, or the wonderful depth and richness of you.

Know that we’re behind you all the way.

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8 Comments

Audrey

Well written words
Such an inspiration for a young person facing his final exams
Thanks

Reply
Miracle Jones

This is great exactly what i was looking for my high school senior friend.Thank’s a lot.

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Eithne

Karen every word you write is amazing. I’d say my friends think I’m on commission for you!! I love how optimistic, gentle, and respectful towards young people your writing is. Your way of framing anxiety in a positive and accepting light has been very helpful in our family. I recommend you to SO many people. Looking forward to your book when it comes. It’ll be a bestseller here in Ireland anyway if I have my way! But to be honest I’m sure it’ll be a bestseller regardless.
Best wishes.

Reply
Bonnie

This is beautiful. I can’t wait to share this with my son! This is just what he needs during this crazy time of college and scholarship applications, essays, campus tours and standardized tests. This time can be difficult for anyone but especially for someone with anxiety, panic and depression. Thank you for the words that convey exactly what I feel.

Reply
Hey Sigmund

You’re so welcome. I hope it brings your son some comfort. I wish him all the very best with his exams and assessments. If only they all knew how amazing they are!

Reply
Denise

Beautifully said, thoughtfully written and exactly the words to share with my own year 12 daughter. Thank you Hey Sigmund!

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Today was an ending and a beginning. My darling girl finished year 12. The final year at school is tough enough, but this year was seismic. Our teens have moved through this year with the most outstanding courage and grace and strength, and now it is time for them to rest and play. My gosh they deserve it. 

It is true that this is a time of celebration, but it can also be an intense time of self-reflection for our teens. (I can remember the same feelings when my gorgeous boy finished so many years ago!) My daughter has described it as, ‘I feel as though I’ve outgrown myself but my new self isn’t ready yet.’ This just makes so much sense. 

There is a beautifully fertile void that is waiting for whatever comes next for each of them, but that void is still a void. At different times it might feel exciting, overwhelming, or brutal in its emptiness.

We also have to remember that this is a time of letting go, and there might be grief that comes with that. Before they can grab on to their next big adventure, they have to let go of the guard rails. This means gently adjusting their hold on the world they have known for the last 12+ years, with its places and routines and people that have felt like home on so many days. There will be redirects and shiftings, and through it all the things that need to stay will stay, and the things that need to adjust will adjust. 

To my darling girl, your loved incredible friends, and the teens who make our world what it is - you are the beautiful  thinkers, the big feelers, the creators, the change makers, and the ones who will craft and grow a better world. However you might feel now, the lights are waiting to shine for you and because of you. The world beyond school is opening its arms to you. That opening might happen quickly, or gently, or smoothly or chaotically, but it will happen. This world needs every one of you - your voices, your spirits, your fire, your softness, your strength and your power. You are world-ready, and we are so glad you are here xxx
When our kids or teens are in high emotion, their words might sound anxious, angry, inconsolable, jealous, defiant. As messy as the words might be, they have a good reason for being there. Big feelings surge as a way to influence the environment to meet a need. Of course, sometimes the fallout from this can be nuclear.
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Wherever there is a big emotion, there will always be an important need behind it - safety, comfort, attention, food, rest, connection. The need will always be valid, even if the way they’re going about meeting it is a little rough. As with so many difficult parenting moments, there will be gold in the middle of the mess if we know where to look. 
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There will be times for shaping the behaviour into a healthier response, but in the middle of a big feeling is not one of those times. Big feelings are NOT a sign of dysfunction, bad kids or bad parenting. They are a part of being human, and they bring rich opportunities for wisdom, learning and growth. .
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Parenting isn’t about stopping the emotional storms, but about moving through the storm and reaching the other side in a way that preserves the opportunity for our kids and teens to learn and grow from the experience - and they will always learn best from experience. 
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To calm a big feeling, name what you see, ‘I can see you’re disappointed. I know how much you wanted that’, or, ‘I can see this feels big for you,’ or, ‘You’re angry at me about .. aren’t you. I understand that. I would be mad too if I had to […],’ or ‘It sounds like today has been a really hard day.’ 
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When we connect with the emotion, we help soothe the nervous system. The emotion has done its job, found support, and can start to ease. 
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When they ‘let go’ they’re letting us in on their deepest and most honest emotional selves. We don’t need to change that. What we need to do is meet them where they and gently guide them from there. When they feel seen and understood, their trust in us and their connection to us will deepen, opening the way for our influence.
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#parenthood #parenting #positiveparenting #parentingtips #childdevelopment #neuronurtured #anxiety #anxietyinchildren #childanxiety #motherhoodcommunity #parenti
When they are at that line, deciding whether to retreat to safety or move forward into brave, there will be a part of them that will know they have what it takes to be brave. It might be pale, or quiet, or a little tumbled by the noise from anxiety, but it will be there. And it will be magical. Our job as their flight crew is to clear the way for this magical part of them to rise. ‘I can see this feels scary for you - and I know you can do this.’ 
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 #mindfulparenting #neuronurtured #parentingteens #neurodevelopment #braindevelopment #positiveparenting #parenting #parenthood #childdevelopment #parentingtip #adolescence #positiveparentingtips #anxietyawareness #anxietyinchildren #childanxiety #parentingadvice #anxiety #parentingtips #motherhoodcommunity #anxietysupport #mentalhealth #heyawesome #heysigmund #heywarrior
When our kids or teens are struggling, it can be hard to know what they need. It can also be hard for them to say. It can be this way for all of us - we don't always know what we need from the people around us. It might be space, or distraction, or silence, or maybe acknowledging and being there is enough. Sometimes we might need to know that the people we love aren't taking our need for space, or our confusion or anger or sadness personally, and that they are still there within reach.
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What can be easier is thinking about what other people might need. Asking this when they are calm can invite a different perspective and can give you some insight into what they need to hear when they are going through similar. Don't worry if you just get a shrug, or a disheartened, 'I don't know'. They don't need to know, and neither do we. The question in itself might be enough to open a new way through any sense of 'stuckness' or helplessness they might be feeling.
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#parenthood #parenting #positiveparenting #parentingtips #childdevelopment #parentingadvice #parentingtip #mindfulparenting #positiveparentingtips #neurodevelopment #parentingteens
Give them space to talk but you don’t need to fix anything. You’ll want to, but the answers are in them, not us. Sometimes the answer will be to feel it out, or push for change, or feel the futility of it all so the feeling can let go, knowing it’s done it’s job - it’s recruited support, or raised awareness that something isn’t right.

Sometimes the feelings might be seismic but the words might be gone for a while. That’s okay too. Do they want to start with whatever words are there? Or talk about something else? Or go for a walk with you? Watch a movie with you? Or do a spontaneous, unnecessary drive thru with you just because you can - no words, no need to explain - just you and them and car music for the next 20 minutes. 

The more you can validate what they’re feeling (maybe, ‘Today was big for you wasn’t it’) and give them space to feel, the more they can feel the feeling, understand the need that’s fuelling it, and experiment with ways to deal with it. Sometimes, ‘dealing with it’ might mean acknowledging that there is something that feels big or important and a little out of reach right now, and feeling the fullness and futility of that. 

Part of building resilience is recognising that some days are rubbish, and that sometimes those days last for longer than they should, but we get through. First we feel floored, then we feel stuck, then we shift because the only choices we have we have are to stay down or move, even when moving hurts. Then, eventually we adjust - either ourselves, the problem, or to a new ‘is’. But the learning comes from experience.

I wish our kids never felt pain, but we don’t get to decide that. We don’t get to decide how our children grow, but we do get to decide how much space and support we give them for this growth. We can love them through it but we can’t love them out of it. I wish we could but we can’t.

So instead of feeling the need to silence their pain, make space for it. In the end we have no choice. Sometimes all the love in the world won’t be enough to put the wrong things right, but it can help them feel held while they move through the pain enough to find their out breath, and the strength that comes with that.♥️

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