Academic performance is something that most people stress about at some point, and this is completely normal. The pressure of doing well enough to keep up with the work, to do well enough to get into a course, or to not fail a class can be very difficult to manage emotionally. Therefore, it is normal for this to take a toll on students and those around them.

However, if this distress starts to affect the way a person is functioning in their everyday life, it can become difficult to manage on their own. This stress and great desire for achievement can extend out to others in the family as well, particularly for parents who only want the best for their children and want to see them succeed in their aspirations and career. However, if this pressure is beginning to become unbearable for yourself or your family and starting to take a toll on your relationships, it may be beneficial to finally seek some help.

This help is not only recommended for those children and families who are struggling with their academic performance – but also for those who are academically gifted.

Academically gifted students are those that already achieve very high grades and may excel in comparison to their peers – however, the pressure of maintaining this may take a toll on everyday life. It can turn into perfectionistic thinking and high expectations for oneself, often specifically in one or two areas that they excel. Anything less than a perfect or high score can lead to disappointment and a feeling of failure, and because of the abstract way that a gifted person may think it can in turn make the concrete and test-taking tasks more difficult.

If someone in your family has these qualities, it can be a great thing. However, if the pressure of maintaining these very high abilities becomes so great that it starts to negatively impact other areas of life – such as family relationships, mood, and behaviour – it may help to seek a mental health professional.

One of our psychologists can assist your family in providing an supporting and helpful environment, in order to reduce the pressure associated with achievement or lack of achievement. Some ways that this is achieved is through:

  • Helping to manage your emotions so that they don’t get in the way of supporting your child with their academic performance
  • Providing education and skill-building in organisation, concentration and mindfulness
  • Identifying your or your family’s excessive expectations and challenging these to be more appropriate and supportive
  • Relaxation training
  • Identifying the thoughts that trigger stressful emotions, and altering these to have a more productive and positive outlook
  • Helping to discuss the concerns as a family in a way that is civil and allows a greater understanding of each individual’s point of view


If you are interested in gaining a comprehensive understanding of a family member’s academic difficulties or academic giftedness, a cognitive assessment by a qualified VCPS practitioner is recommended. A comprehensive picture of an individual’s abilities is provided through structured testing, a semi-structured interview with the individual or their parents and information gained from their educational setting. A cognitive profile is greatly beneficial in not only guiding treatment, but more importantly can lend vital information required to assist in educational planning in terms of an individual’s learning styles, strengths and utilising these strengths to improve cognitive weaknesses.