Don’t panic, parents


I just listened to an excellent feature on BBC R4’s ‘Woman’s Hour’ (which I believe will be available via iPlayer soon). The A level exam results are out tomorrow. So in many households across the UK, parents and their offspring may be anxious and awake at the crack of dawn (if anyone manages to get any sleep at all). Been there, got that t-shirt, twice.

In fact, with my son, he didn’t get the results he needed to go where he wanted. It can seem like a major drama. It doesn’t have to be. However, your young adults need to navigate their way through the UCAS system themselves, upset and downhearted though they might be. Your job is to provide support, encouragement and plenty of tea/coffee/food to get them through the process.

There are three main options if your young adult has missed out on the place s/he has been counting on:

1. Get an exam remarked if your young adult has missed the grades by a whisker. This needs to happen quickly.

2. Go through the UCAS clearing system to find an alternative course at the same or a different university. Again, there is no time to dawdle as the available places will be snapped up.

3. Take time out to re-consider whether university is the right choice at all. If your young adult wants to re-apply, it must be done by January 2015, so leaving the country for a year out is inadvisable as s/he might need to attend interviews.

As it turned out in my son’s case, he graduated a couple of weeks ago from the course he took with flying colours. He’s staying on at that university to do an MSc. So it worked out pretty well.

I wish all anxious parents and their young adults a successful day tomorrow. If it’s a slightly bumpy start, I hope it’s not too long before they’re all flying.


Protect your boredom


The title of this post comes from Jonah Lehrer, author of the recently published book on creativity, Imagine. I just heard him taking part in Andrew Marr’s Start the Week programme on BBC R4. (Which you can listen to here in the UK.)

One of the interviewees mentioned that air travel was a favourite time to think creatively, as there were none of the usual distractions of land-based routine, plenty of blue sky and nothing much to do but daydream. Lehrer commented that not being able to access your email and phone messages was a distinct aid to creative thinking. When we are bored, he argued, instead of compulsively checking for new emails, we can allow our minds to wander freely. These ‘voids’ can be extremely valuable for letting new thoughts get through.

“Protect your boredom” he said. It sounds like good advice.