Tips for Parents for Leaving Cert & CAO’s

Has your teen just received their Leaving Cert results and ended up disappointed?  Are they trying to decide what to do about their CAO offer? Sheila O’Malley gives parents some tips on this important decision time for Leaving Certs & CAO’s

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As a parent of one of the 57,000 Leaving Cert students; I have been observing the highs and lows of these important days. Recently, I accompanied my daughter to school, on Leaving Cert Results day, and saw students elated, subdued or devastated as they opened and read their results.

Questions to Think About

With the Leaving Certificate results and CAO offers the best question is ‘Are you happy with what you got?’ A young person with 510 points may be devastated if Medical School dreams are dashed; for them they may as well have failed. Another young person with lower points may know that they did not do their best and will not get the CAO offer they want.

There are important decisions to be made that will affect their future. As their friends go onto college and their desired courses, what will they do? If they failed to achieve the points they wanted, they may get a CAO offer for another college outside Dublin or in the UK. They may decide to repeat and if so where?

The choice is the local VEC’s at a cost of €400 or a private College at a cost of €4,000-€6,000. They may decide to repeat and yet get a CAO offer on a subsequent round.

Ensure you know the deadline to view an exam paper in case you need to pursue that.

Should they think about an appeal? At a cost of €40 per subject, and where the result can go down as well as up, this appeal deadline approaches fast. For those who received disappointing results there are also many PLC Colleges which offer Level 5.

Dealing with Disappointment

Disappointment is part of life and it can be seen as an opportunity to learn something. An exam is a measure of your knowledge of a set of questions, not a measure of your intellect, or of your worth as a person or lovability. We use less than 2% of our brain function and therefore all have vast potential.

A person’s academic achievements are a result of learning opportunities, home environment, and parent’s attitude to learning, motivation, interest and level of emotional and social maturity.

Confidence is central to the acquisition of knowledge and for our child to feel confident, we need let them know how highly intelligent they are, regardless of their knowledge of a particular subject. Therefore, belief in your child is crucial to them feeling confident. Encouragement and praise gives heart to your child’s efforts to learn.

There have never been more educational options available for young people. This is a time for your young person to mind themselves, to take time and make no rash decisions. Just because they get a CAO offer does not mean they have to take it. Ask them ‘Do you want this?

If it is not what you want, then do not take it and end up dropping out of College later. Talk together to the School and Career Guidance and to others in a position to offer relevant advice. With the CAO offer, there is some time to decide; therefore look at the alternatives, get good advice and encourage them not to make a rushed decision.

Some Tips for Parents

If they are disappointed with their results:

  • Acknowledge if they are disappointed –  “You are disappointed..”
  • They need you to listen to them
  • Allow time for feelings to dissipate, do not try to ‘fix it’
  • Do not burden them with your disappointment
  • ‘The man who never made anything, never made a mistake’
  • They need support to work through the options
  • Believe in them and remind them of their strengths
  • There have never been more options available
  • Call the Helpline on 1 800 265 165

Sheila O’Malley is one of Ireland’s leading Parenting experts who established Practical Parenting to offer support and training to Parents. She facilitates many corporate programs and delivers talks around personal and family wellbeing.

Has your teen been disappointed with their results?  Do you have any tips for other parents? Share your thoughts in the comments below


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Jill is one of the co-founders of Mykidstime and a mum of 2 girls