Columns | Relationships

Getting Deep #12: Parental Pressure, Studying With Music, Staying Friends With An Ex

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Q&A with Dr. Dorothy: Your tough questions answered

dorothy ratusny
Dorothy Ratusny is a Certified Psychotherapist specializing in Cognitive Therapy. Send your ‘Getting Deep’ questions to

My brother flunked out of university. I’m the next kid to go off to university, and because of his failure, my parents are pushing me harder. All this is stressing me out and sometimes makes me not want to pursue an education. I’ve told them what they’re doing to me, but they aren’t doing anything about it.

asian girl studying

Given your brother’s current situation, it’s probably unlikely that your parents are going to cut you some slack. While you can’t stop your parents from turning up the pressure, you can control how you react to them. Since talking to them hasn’t helped (that would have been my first suggestion as well!) you might want to keep the following points in mind.

• Stay positive about your future university experience. Remember that your education and what you create from it, is up to you.

• Even though you have good reason to feel stressed right now, keep in mind that your parents ultimately want you to succeed. They may not be conveying this in the most productive way, but know that they do have good intentions at heart.

• As a strategic tactic, think of a phrase that you can use when they jump on the ‘pressure’ bandwagon. Saying something like, “I’m going to do my best” (before you excuse yourself from the room), will actually help to appease some of their concerns while reinforcing what they probably need to hear.

I like to study with the music turned up loud. My father and I get into huge arguments over this. He thinks I’m not concentrating, and I can’t make him understand that I can’t study with complete silence around me. I don’t think my school work is suffering but I have no way to prove it to my dad. What should I do?

Some people find they need total silence (or at the very least – limited distractions) when they are learning new information. Homework that is routine or requires little mental effort may easily be done with background noise because it doesn’t require your full attention or effort. Current research based on individuals suffering from chronic stress suggests that people who feel that they need music, television, or some other kind of background ‘noise’ when they are working on a task may actually be acclimatized to a higher stress environment. The background noise doesn’t necessarily promote better academic performance, but rather the individual is simply used to having the distractions.

If you were to compare study outcomes, you might be surprised to find that it often takes longer to learn new material when background or external distractions are present. Try a simple experiment if you like. Keep track of how you do on tests and assignments in which you have studied in the presence of loud music. Pay attention to how quickly you learn in this setting as compared to a quiet environment. You might also want to check out this site for some additional study tips

My girlfriend and I broke up but we want to continue being friends. I’ve never seen these things work out before. Is there any way we can make ours the first?

Time and a bit of geographical space after a break up helps immensely. If the two of you were friends before being in a relationship, there is a greater chance of reclaiming your friendship after the breakup. This is because you would have a foundation for that friendship already established. Acknowledging that you both may need to take some time before you regroup as ‘friends’ is one way to help ensure that a friendship can exist after being a couple. When you do begin to see each other in social circles, think of your ‘ex’ as a friend rather than an ‘ex’. In other words, remember their positive qualities and attributes rather than thinking about how they may have hurt you in the past. In other words, build on the relationship as friends rather than dredging up the past. Be respectful of each other as human beings. As long as it remains important to both of you to have each other as friends, you’ll find a way to make this work.

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