Parents’ guide to talking to your teenagers about NCEA results

Media release on how to talk to your teenagers about their future careers at NCEA results time.

17 January 2017

About 160,000 students are anxiously awaiting the online release of their NCEA results.

“It can be an emotional and confronting time for teens, particularly school leavers,” says Pat Cody, Principal Advisor – Career Knowledge Hub, Careers New Zealand. “For many students, results will confirm study or career pathways, but some will receive results that may be disappointing or unexpected – requiring some further thinking about their future careers.”

Mr Cody suggests five easy steps to help parents guide teenagers through NCEA results, which can be a tricky conversation:

  1. Reality check your expectations and brush up on your understanding of NCEA.
  2. Choose the right time and place to discuss results.
  3. Take time to analyse results.
  4. Remember there are options.
  5. Reflect on how results impact on aspirations and plans.

Step 1: Reality check your expectations and understanding of NCEA
Much of the tension for parents and teens relates to when expectations are not met or there are surprises around the results.

“Before entering into a conversation with your teenager, ask yourself: what are my expectations of their performance? Is this realistic?” recommends Mr Cody.

“Consider, how do my expectations match what they want and can achieve?

“Try and close the gap between reality and expectation – gauge how they are feeling and ask how they think they will do. This will hopefully be a good indicator of what’s to come and be a good starting point for your conversation around results and possible next steps,” adds Mr Cody.

Parents should also take some time to brush up on how NCEA works to ensure you understand the results and can have a good conversation about possible options.

Step 2: Choose the right time and place to discuss results
The aim is to create an environment that allows for a constructive conversation and to take any heat out of the conversation.

Parents and caregivers know the best way to engage with their kids and how each requires a unique approach.

“Before starting a conversation, consider if it’s a good time. Will you be interrupted? Should you organise a walk or a drive to create space and time to talk properly – doing something in a different place or travelling somewhere can be a great way to start and build a career conversation,” says Mr Cody.

Step 3: Take time to analyse results
Whether your teen is returning to school or heading off to university, they should do a stock-take on the academic year – what worked well, what didn’t and why?

Mr Cody says it’s important to discuss and ask your child questions about their performance. It provides a learning opportunity to view the whole academic year and find out what they would do differently that may lead to a different result.

Another technique is to only use open questions. Let them fill the space, as often they will have more of the answers than you will. Possible questions could be:

  • If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
  • How do your results relate to your training and work aspirations?

Step 4: Remember there are options
It’s always good to remember there are range of options available no matter what your teen’s results.

First look at how close the results are, as it might be worth asking for a review of the papers with the aim of picking up extra marks, particularly if the result was close. Also talk to people in the know.

“Your school careers adviser at school can be a good place to start, or if you had planned on moving on to tertiary education your chosen provider may also have helpful advice on other options,” adds Mr Cody.

Explore other career options that meet your interests, skills and aspirations, sometimes a similar or related course or bridging programme could assist entry to your preferred option.

Careers New Zealand’s website, careers.govt.nz provides information and some initial steps to start that exploration process and to check out options.

Step 5: Reflect on how results impact on aspirations and plans
Reflecting on results can be a great way to have broader conversations discuss what career options are being pursued, and if they are still going in the direction that feels right for them.

Try and evaluate how confident and sure your teen is about their choices. A good way to test this is asking them to explain several reasons why this is the best approach for them. A good indicator is if they can demonstrate an understanding of the course or subject and how it fits with their skills and abilities, future opportunities it leads to, what support is available, and the new education environment they are entering.

“It’s important to remember that a career is not just the job a person does. It’s also about developing and marketing skills that are transferable across industries – and knowing it’s a journey through learning, paid and unpaid work and other aspects of their life,” says Mr Cody.

Updated 17 Jan 2017