In part two of her blog about teenage girls, Edrys Barkham focuses on the years from GCSE onwards...
GCSE is about as close as we get in Western society to a rite of passage. It is an ordeal and requires perseverance and persistence from 16-year-olds. It requires her managing fear of failure and self-doubt, and understanding that supporting others helps to support herself. Sharing exam technique and revision practices can bring a year group together and it is through this that girls start to develop further a sense of responsibility for themselves and for others. It’s the recognition that they have to do past papers not for their teacher or to please their parents, but to improve their own understanding of the subject and exam requirements. Working with friends allows them to identify what they do understand and where they need to do more. Learning ways to manage exam nerves and cope with a fear of failure are all critical life skills that are honed through the exam year.
Girls throughout early adolescence will dump their emotional load on their mothers and, having done so, move back into their social life feeling relieved, leaving their mothers as emotional wrecks. I would receive a ‘distraught’ phone call from mum saying her daughter was in floods of tears and really struggling. I would rush into the boarding house and discover them dancing on their desk or laughing with their friends. When I called mum to tell her this it always sounded so implausible; today, I’d be able to email video footage, which might be the solution to convince mums that their distressed daughter is actually fine!
For A3 (year 12) returning to the Sixth Form armed with a string of numbers from GCSE results that they recognise as part of their adult identity, but that don't totally define them as a person, improves teenagers’ self-esteem and confidence. Having selected their subjects for study, school now is more about personal achievement than doing what everyone else is doing. During A3 they are more confident to express themselves as an individual in both appearance and opinion. They are more secure to do things on their own, there is often less antagonism with parents, but disagreements can be vigorous as they feel more independent and adult, confident in their own opinions and ideas, and more focused on what they want to achieve.
During the final A2 year (year 13) there tends to be better and more adult communication with parents; girls feel more established as individuals and begin to enjoy taking more responsibility in looking after others. The year group usually finds a new cohesion and all the different personalities and characters become more interconnected and tolerant of each other’s differences. They take on the shared responsibility of the community and discuss their thoughts and ideas more freely with their parents. Our girls leave us as young adults, generally comfortable in their own skins, confident in their strengths, but not arrogant about their talents and ready to contribute positively to their society.
The five-year journey can be calm and gentle, or it can be tumultuous and chaotic, or it can be a mixture. The relationship between the parent and child changes and develops throughout this time, but the skilled and highly experienced hsms and tutors here at Bryanston will help you and your daughter find a route through adolescence, so that you can enjoy a well-deserved and long-lasting adult relationship.