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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9 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.

Reply
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.

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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!

Reply

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‘Brave’ doesn’t always feel like certain, or strong, or ready. In fact, it rarely does. That what makes it brave.♥️
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#parenting #mindfulparenting #parentingtips
We teach our kids to respect adults and other children, and they should – respect is an important part of growing up to be a pretty great human. There’s something else though that’s even more important – teaching them to respect themselves first. 

We can’t stop difficult people coming into their lives. They might be teachers, coaches, peers, and eventually, colleagues, or perhaps people connected to the people who love them. What we can do though is give our kids independence of mind and permission to recognise that person and their behaviour as unacceptable to them. We can teach our kids that being kind and respectful doesn’t necessarily mean accepting someone’s behaviour, beliefs or influence. 

The kindness and respect we teach our children to show to others should never be used against them by those broken others who might do harm. We have to recognise as adults that the words and attitudes directed to our children can be just as damaging as anything physical. 

If the behaviour is from an adult, it’s up to us to guard our child’s safe space in the world even harder. That might be by withdrawing support for the adult, using our own voice with the adult to elevate our child’s, asking our child what they need and how we can help, helping them find their voice, withdrawing them from the environment. 

Of course there will be times our children do or say things that aren’t okay, but this never makes it okay for any adult in your child’s life to treat them in a way that leads them to feeling ‘less than’.

Sometimes the difficult person will be a peer. There is no ‘one certain way’ to deal with this. Sometimes it will involve mediation, role playing responses, clarifying the other child’s behaviour, asking for support from other adults in the environment, or letting go of the friendship.

Learning that it’s okay to let go of relationships is such an important part of full living. Too often we hold on to people who don’t deserve us. Not everyone who comes into our lives is meant to stay and if we can help our children start to think about this when they’re young, they’ll be so much more empowered and deliberate in their relationships when they’re older.♥️
When we are angry, there will always be another emotion underneath it. It is this way for all of us. 

Anger itself is a valid emotion so it’s important not to dismiss it. Emotion is e-motion - energy in motion. It has to find a way out, which is why telling an angry child to calm down or to keep their bodies still will only make things worse for them. They might comply, but their bodies will still be in a state of distress. 

Often, beneath an angry child is an anxious one needing our help. It’s the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. As with all emotions, anger has a job to do - to help us to safety through movement, or to recruit support, or to give us the physical resources to meet a need or to change something that needs changing. It doesn’t mean it does the job well, because an angry brain means the feeling brain has the baton, while the thinking brain sits out for a while. What it means is that there is a valid need there and this young person is doing their very best to meet it, given their available resources in the moment or their developmental stage. 

Children need the same thing we all need when we’re feeling fierce - to be seen,  heard, and supported; to find a way to get the energy out, either with words or movement. Not to be shut down or ‘fixed’. 

Our job isn’t to stop their anger, but to help them find ways to feel it and express it in ways that don’t do damage. This will take lots of experience, and lots of time - and that’s okay.♥️
The SCCR Online Conference 2021 is a wonderful initiative by @sccrcentre (Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution) which will explore ’The Power of Reconnection’. I’ve been working with SCCR for many years. They do incredible work to build relationships between young people and the important adults around them, and I’m excited to be working with them again as part of this conference.

More than ever, relationships matter. They heal, provide a buffer against stress, and make the world feel a little softer and safer for our young people. Building meaningful connections can take time, and even the strongest relationships can feel the effects of disconnection from time to time. As part of this free webinar, I’ll be talking about the power of attachment relationships, and ways to build relationships with the children and teens in your life that protect, strengthen, and heal. 

The workshop will be on Monday 11 October at 7pm Brisbane, Australia time (10am Scotland time). The link to register is in my story.
There are many things that can send a nervous system into distress. These can include physiological (tired, hungry, unwell), sensory overload/ underload, real or perceived threat (anxiety), stressed resources (having to share, pay attention, learn new things, putting a lid on what they really think or want - the things that can send any of us to the end of ourselves).

Most of the time it’s developmental - the grown up brain is being built and still has a way to go. Like all beautiful, strong, important things, brains take time to build. The part of the brain that has a heavy hand in regulation launches into its big developmental window when kids are about 6 years old. It won’t be fully done developing until mid-late 20s. This is a great thing - it means we have a wide window of influence, and there is no hurry.

Like any building work, on the way to completion things will get messy sometimes - and that’s okay. It’s not a reflection of your young one and it’s not a reflection of your parenting. It’s a reflection of a brain in the midst of a build. It’s wondrous and fascinating and frustrating and maddening - it’s all the things.

The messy times are part of their development, not glitches in it. They are how it’s meant to be. They are important opportunities for us to influence their growth. It’s just how it happens. We have to be careful not to judge our children or ourselves because of these messy times, or let the judgement of others fill the space where love, curiosity, and gentle guidance should be. For sure, some days this will be easy, and some days it will feel harder - like splitting an atom with an axe kind of hard.

Their growth will always be best nurtured in the calm, loving space beside us. It won’t happen through punishment, ever. Consequences have a place if they make sense and are delivered in a way that doesn’t shame or separate them from us, either physically or emotionally. The best ‘consequence’ is the conversation with you in a space that is held by your warm loving strong presence, in a way that makes it safe for both of you to be curious, explore options, and understand what happened.♥️
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#mindfulparenting #positiveparenting #parenting

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