Karabo Mokoena
2 minute read
15 Dec 2020
10:00 am

How to support a child that fails matric

Karabo Mokoena

Parents can play an important role in helping their children navigate their way around performing poorly in matric.


As the academic year draws closer to the end, the fate of millions of matric students is yet to be determined. February 2021 will be filled with a lot of excitement and anxiety for learners and family alike.

Millions will celebrate as they receive positive results that allow them to advance as planned.

For some, this day will not bring good news. Some have either only received an entry for higher certificates or diplomas. This is not a failure, but for someone with plans of going to university to study a degree, it feels like it. Some may completely fail their matric.

They might be disappointed because of how their family will react to their matric results. Parents always have high hopes for their children. And it might be difficult to accept a low mark from your kids.

So what role do parents have to play to support a child who feels like a failure?

According to psychologist Benedict Mhlongo, the trauma linked to waiting for results and receiving negative ones is huge. It is socially equal to finding out about the loss of a loved one. Mhlongo says “matric learners who are awaiting final results experience a multitude of emotions”.

This means that the parent’s role does not begin as they receive the results. Parents must be wary of what they communicate to their children as they wait. The pressure of parents’ excitement about their university entry and future prospects may be harmful.

The hopelessness that kids feel as they receive negative results could, in extreme cases, even lead to suicide. As we communicate how disappointed we are, or as we wallow in our own disappointment and say nothing, we are feeding into this trauma and anxiety.

Some children even get sidelined and the sense of community vanishes.

When supported, children can “imagine themselves as having the autonomy to rethink and put things into perspective”. It would be a good time to reflect on what they feel went wrong, and what the way forward is.

“Ensuring that the learner is still involved in familial duties, reciting words of affirmation and drawing up a vision board with them” are all effective ways parents can support their children during such a tough time.

The family should also consider exploring seeking professional help for the child. As mentioned, this can create a huge mental, social, and emotional shift for the child. Therapy can also help the child explore different developmental areas. This could be careers, cognitive restructuring, and building resiliency.

For more information around this topic and other child-rearing difficulties, parents may contact Mhlongo on 079 318 9672 or visit his private practice in Cedar Square Shopping Center in Fourways.

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