• Teenagers around the UK have recently received their GCSE results

  • When we don't do as well as we hoped, feelings of disappointment and failure can be strong

  • If your teen is feeling stressed or anxious, find a therapist here 

It's harvest time – the apple trees are weighted with fruit. But this is also the time that 16 year olds all over the UK discover the results of their first public examinations.  For parents and children, the question is: what now?

Perhaps as a parent, you feel you have invested so much time, effort and money into your child and she/he hasn't done as well as you would've hoped; you feel guilty, let down, anxious. Your expectations have not been met. Could it be that you feel squeezed between the rock (your parents) and a hard place (your adolescent)? Perhaps you feel you have done something “wrong” and are feeling stuck. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that you feel angry – you wanted so much more for your child that you never had. For you it's a loss and sometimes anxiety sets in as well as depression, a missed opportunity to measure up with important people in your life. I wonder if you are living your aspirations or lack of, through your children. There may be other pressures too – your life, disappointment, a sense of failure, maybe feeling not good enough and changes are happening within your home. Some young people are off to university, leaving you with an empty nest – your tree has shred its fruit and the family will have to re-adjust and adapt to certain roles, identities; perhaps the loss feels unbearable.

As a young person, where you achieved your predicted grades – congratulations. If not, where do you go from here? Perhaps you have feelings of guilt, being out of control, not listened to and mostly pressurised. The message is “you could've done better, we are angry, you've let us down and we've done so much for you!” It's my experience that some young people today are not heard, valued - you've got to be a round peg yet you're a square one. Maybe you have faced so many challenges – tried to measure up, find your own identity and so many directive messages have left you feeling out of control. People don't see you and so you made the choice to harness control.

The bottom line is only you are the boss of your life. We're all masters of our own destinies. Picking apples just now, I noticed how they were all individual – some big, some small yet most were not perfect – worms have infiltrated and writing metaphorically I know how parents, grandparents and also friends, can become a debilitating factor of a life journey and self-esteem. Growing up is hard and sometimes the past affects our current lives. I am experienced with working with adults and young people, where perhaps you are stuck in your punitive childhood and adolescent, even though you are in your “Golden Years”.

OK, some of us weren't meant to be lawyers, doctors, bankers or accountants. It's the path you choose now where you can connect closely on a visceral platform. My integrative practice and belief is that you are perfect, albeit perhaps a little bruised or uncertain at the moment.

You do have choices and seeing a therapist you can work it out, in a safe place. How does your future look now? What apples are you picking from your tree? Some will get thrown away or forgotten about; others will be prized, perhaps entered into the local fruit and vegetable festival. And if that were a picture, what would it look like? If it were a taste, would it be the bitter pill, hard to swallow and resulting in stomach aches? If your feelings were a sound, perhaps you could tell me more.

The future is yours and so are your choices.

Sarah Dean is a verified welldoing.org therapist in Banbury

Further reading

Supporting teens this exam results day

Why self-compassion is key to success

Why success isn't everything

The art of not falling apart: rethinking failure