Fast Track: Student stress: how families can help

Steve Potter, Director of the University of Manchester and UMIST Counselling Service offers advice on dealing with an essay crisis:

Pacing work is essential, but if it comes to a crisis, it is likely someone in the family is going to become involved. However, the relationship between students and parents can be especially complex during an emotional period of study.

The key thing is communication. Both sides have got to talk to each other as adults. It is always far better to talk about things before they get out of hand, but no matter how late it gets, it is important that the student can step back from it all. Parents can help here, but the trick is to stay involved without becoming part of the problem. Parents need to try and offer practical help. They've got to remember that what they really care about is the person; there are worse things than missing deadlines.

It's best that students talk honestly to their parents, and they have some responsibility to keep the family in the picture as to how their work is going. But sometimes that does not work and the student has real problems discussing work. Family and studying problems can get mixed up, and students find it hard to sort out the pressure they put themselves under from the pressure they get from their family. If that happens it is crucial for the student to talk about their problems to someone who is not involved in the family. This is where counselling services come in.

The experience of Oliver and his parents will ring bells with people. It's not surprising that parents will go to extraordinary lengths to help their children.

I'd ask students not to underestimate how important their families can be in terms of motivation and inspiration.