A couple of weeks ago I wrote that Beeswax was worried about his GCSE options and felt he had managed to set himself such a high standard academically that now he was feeling pressured to make the right choices for his future.
Well……… this week I managed to arrange a meeting with his tutor to discuss his anxiety around selecting his options and getting a clearer idea of what school were hoping from him. Much to my surprise the tutor very quickly admitted that I was correct, when a few months before I advised them that he would find ‘making choices’ difficult and to avoid the discomfort of worrying if he has/hasn’t made the right choices, he would either write down the first ones on the sheet or select vocational options because he knew he could manage them with relative ease.
He had done just this when he and his peers had completed an early options selection sheet and most his choices were clearly not what school expected him to choose or wanted for him. He is academically advanced for his age and, if I go by what school staff predict, he could easily achieve A-C’s in all subjects. So, you can imagine their expression when he chose an extremely random collection of preferred topics and only one of these was actually a GCSE subject, the rest were vocational topics with no direct link to each other or significance to a future further education/ career path. I found his selections amusing because he had missed his favourite subject off his selection, so I knew he had rushed it and it may not be very ‘good mummy’ to think it, but in my head I was singing “I told you so, I told you so”.
Suddenly their usual ‘stop fussing Mrs Honeymummy’ tone had vanished, and they were asking for support with helping Waxy make his GCSE options and were open to hearing my suggestions. Although it won’t surprise most of you to know that they REALLY had not cottoned onto the fact they had been witnessing more “emotional immaturity” recently and connected the dots between all the talk about options and his ‘new found silliness’.
So this weekend, Bumble and I have been gently dropping in conversations about his options and exploring his reasons behind his earlier selections. On most occasions we hit a wall of resistance (fear) and he successfully managed to distract our attentions onto other matters.
As we couldn’t keep avoiding the subject with him, this evening Bumble and I waited until Buzzbee was soaking in the bath (given half the change he would stay in there all night), I scanned a copy of the sheet which contained all the subjects he could study (past homework experience has taught me not to give him the original copy until he is ready and calm).
We then sat Beewax down and tried to find a way to help him make the right choices for him without taking the easy way out.
OMG, for a young man who needs to control every microscopic element of his and everyone around him’s lives, choosing 5 options to join up with the mandatory Math, English and Double Science was pushing him so far outside of his comfort zone. By controlling everything it make him feel safe because everything is predictable for him but, making these choices involves a large element of uncertainty and a gaping chasm of risk that he will make a mistake that will affect his future.
Just going through his options didn’t work. Brainstorming what he would like to do in the future, hit a brick wall too, when I needed to say that while wanting to be a pro-footballer was OK, he really needed a back-up plan too – ‘worst mum ever’ because I don’t believe he can be a pro-player and want him to pick a ‘normal’ job). In a last ditch attempt to pull him back from the spiral of avoidance and fear, I suggested Bumble, Waxy, and myself wrote down 5 jobs we wanted to do (in Bumble and my case what we wanted to be when we were at school) Buzzbee decided to join in too.
This crazy idea actually had the desired effect and suddenly we were getting somewhere and within a few minutes Waxy was coming up with ideas that were still all his own choices, but ones that better suited his abilities and interests, and Waxy was able to relax and breathe.
A weight had been lifted off his shoulder for the time being at least.
For any teenager, having to make educational decisions that will potentially be paving the way to their future is a scary prospect in itself, but for many teens who have already had so much uncertainty and change in their lives, the pressure for some of them feels unbearable.