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Family support: An important success factor

Many students face similar problems in terms of meeting all their work, family and study commitments. However, some students persist in their studies and some do not. Student support can be the crucial factor in ensuring their success.

The single most important source of support for students is from their partners, families and friends.1 You and your student are a team. Your student may be doing the studying, but your support role is vital to their success.

How can family help?

Before study starts

  • Discuss why the study is required. Successful study is a joint commitment. What are the benefits for both you and the family unit?
  • Discuss how many hours of study are involved: for reading, for audioconferences, for residential schools, for assignments and revision. Is the time involved realistic? How will you manage your time? Think in terms of chores and childcare, sports, socialising, wider family and community commitments. Negotiate at the start what is study time and what is family time; but be prepared to be flexible
  • What help will you need for successful study? Think in terms of a warm place to study, quiet time for scheduled audio conferences, and additional assistance at assignment or exam time
  • Schedule house maintenance and/or holidays around the study period to avoid frustration
  • Organise a celebration at the end of it all. Partners deserve a reward too!

During the period of study

  • Practical support from family members helps such as: taking on child care and household tasks, checking assignments and keeping children occupied during audioconferences
  • Seeking emotional support from family members such as encouragement, showing an interest, reminding you why you are studying when things get tough (especially that vital first assignment), helping keep things in perspective (for example a low grade for an assignment), recognition of the hurdles you face and celebration of minor successes along the way. Remember to seek help from your tutor if this is what is needed
  • Having your partner provide time and space: time to study, relief from minor daily stresses, perhaps putting your needs first for this period of time.

“He helped me keep going when I was ready to give up” (student about her husband)

“We are in this husband cooks, cleans and does the laundry...and my 16 year old son helps with statistical analyses and Excel graphs” (wife about husband and children)2

[1] Simpson, Ormond. “Student Support Outside the Institution.” In Supporting Students in Online, Open and Distance Learning, 120-25. London: Kogan Page, 2002.
[2] Castellucci, Marion. “Succeeding as a Distance Learner.” In Game Plan for Distance Learning, 141-55. Lawrenceville, NJ: Peterson's, 2001.

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