The release of matric results is typically a high stakes time for many students and their parents, but pandemic disruptions throughout 2020 are adding extra angst. In the last week of February the anticipation will be over, but getting these final school marks in black and white can spiral some young South Africans, and their families, into despair and crisis.
Read the Signs
Both parents and teens will benefit from a heightened awareness of what is brewing emotionally as they wait for the results over these last days, and then process those results. Esmarie Cilliers, a Registered Counsellor and Educator at SACAP (the South African College of Applied Psychology) advises that parents be on the lookout for behavioural clues, such as changes in sleeping or eating patterns, moodiness, short temper, frustration, lethargy, and expressions of boredom. All of these can be indications of anxiety and distress. “Parents should react to this with patience and understanding,” she says. “Using reflective listening can help your child to become aware of their emotions. Having someone that understands always makes the burden we carry lighter.”
Choose to cope
Being aware is a great start, but both parents and teens can also take action to manage the stress of waiting for results. “It’s important to be kind to yourself, and you can also engage in activities that can take your mind off the waiting,” Esmarie says. “Parents can encourage participation in enjoyable family activities, such as going on walks and playing backyard sports. Daily physical activity regularly releases feel-good endorphins and promotes emotional resilience and well-being.” During acute episodes of anxiety, deep breathing techniques work to calm you down, and positive affirmations can be used in the moment to shift your thought patterns.
Manage the expectations
Even in the best of years, matric is a pressure-cooker experience and we tend to place a large emphasis on the importance of getting nothing less than outstanding results. “It’s important to know that if the outcome of your matric results does not meet your expectations, this should not be viewed as a defeat,” says Esmarie. “Rather it’s a new challenge or obstacle and you have choices and steps you can take to move forward in life. Remember not to compare your life with those of others, and that each of us has our own journey to follow.”
Reframe the pandemic matric experience
While the 2020 matric cohort will be experiencing many typical trials of anticipating and processing their results, we do have to remember that they have had to uniquely grapple with the pandemic’s impact on their matric experience.
Dr Diana De Sousa, the Head of Teaching and Learning at SACAP’s Johannesburg Campus tackles some of the common perceptions of parents, matrics, and first-year students and outlines ways to reframe the pandemic’s impact to find real hope for their futures:
· “My results aren't what I hoped for due to the pandemic disruptions - I would have done better if Covid-19 hadn't have happened.”
“Consider this instead: My matric results do not define who I am and what I can achieve. There are infinite pathways to achieving my career ambitions. Reflect on how the COVID-19 impacts on you, while acknowledging that it is now in the past. What can you learn so that you can adapt and grow from your matric experience? Take a moment to consider that you made it this far, and this is a major achievement.”
· “I struggled to adapt to learning remotely last year - I am going to keep doing badly because Covid is still disrupting studies at the tertiary institutions I have applied to. I am going to start university at a big disadvantage because online learning hasn't worked well for me.”
“Adapting to learning remotely is not a linear process. Over time learning remotely will become less daunting. By adopting and maintaining a growth mindset, being curious and open to different ways of learning and finding enjoyment in a supportive online learning community, you can lay a foundation for successful remote learning experiences. Last year, all SACAP students and educators had to pivot quickly to an online blended teaching and learning environment to ensure educational continuity during the pandemic response. Many discovered that a supportive online learning community can actually increase academic success and improve the depth of learning through community building and collaboration.”
· “I missed out on learning content last year and worry that I have learning gaps. I don't know if I can ever catch-up, and I fear that this is going to affect my whole future - my ability to succeed in tertiary studies is going to be compromised; I won't get the kind of job I really want once I graduate; I am always going to be behind in life. I can never catch-up on what I missed during my Covid-Matric year.”
“Accepting that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on your matric learning experience is not easy. However, the ability to be flexible, open-minded, and adaptable can emerge in response to disappointment. By seeing things differently, you can take ownership of your learning and your future and in turn empower yourself to catch-up Grade 12 content relevant to your chosen field of study at university level or seek study skills and career guidance from Student Support departments found in tertiary institutions.”
· “I had plans for a gap year to give me space to decide what to do next - but now I can't travel as I hoped to do. I am not ready to choose a study path, but I am under pressure because there's nothing else worthwhile for me to do this year.”
“A gap year during COVID-19 involving freewheeling travel abroad is no longer an option, and you will need to adjust your expectations accordingly. There are still worthwhile ways to experience a gap year such as volunteering, part-time work, short course and bridging studies.
SACAP’s popular Higher Certificate in Communications and Counselling Skills is a good example of a one-year programme that builds interpersonal skills, which are life and job skills, while providing a voyage of self-discovery, enabling greater awareness and understanding in relation to others as well as a deeper relationship with self. Be open to the idea that something worthwhile can still emerge for you this year. It’s a change and a shift, but certainly not the end of your dreams.”
SACAP has over 23 years’ experience as a leading provider of education in Applied Psychology. So whether you’re studying Psychology, Counselling, Coaching, Human Resource Management, Business Management or Social Work – know that your educators bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the table.