For parents who are going back to college, balancing parenting with the challenges of student life can be difficult to navigate. At times it can seem like going back to school as a parent forces you to be creative with your time and energy. However, the experience and skills developed through parenthood can help you become a better student. According to Laura Kastner, psychologist and author of Wise-Minded Parenting, “Life experience contributes to the depth of academic work.”
Here are a few tips for balancing life as a student with the responsibilities of parenthood.
Prepare ahead of time
In order to balance school and parenting, it is important to plan your time wisely. Identify the time you need to study and plot that on your calendar. Then, intentionally set aside time on your calendar to be with your family. Planning ahead to devote a certain time to your family will ensure that your family is not neglected. However, the unexpected is inevitable in the parenting season, so allow yourself margin for these unplanned situations, such as your child getting sick.
Study in intervals
When you have children, it can be challenging to designate a large amount of time to studying or doing homework. Designating shorter amounts of study time can prove to be more helpful. For example, instead of blocking off three hours of time to study during your day, try blocking out 90 minutes in the morning and 90 minutes at night. This may make it easier to have study time in the midst of your family’s schedule.
Keep your laptop with you so you can watch a lecture or review your assignments when you have downtime. You can also carry a copy of your flashcards or textbooks with you to read when the situation allows.
Incorporate your family
If you have school-age children, studying and doing homework together as a family can be a great opportunity to integrate student and family life. When you sit down to do your homework, encourage your children to do theirs with you. If you have younger children, try bringing out a box of activities, toys and books to entertain them at the table when you need to study. Your children will look forward to spending time with you. Find opportunities to involve your older children in your study habits, such as asking them to quiz you while you study. Role reversal is a good learning opportunity for older children.
Build a support system
Going back to school as a parent is challenging, so it is important to build a support system around you that can help. Consider asking family, friends or church members to help with childcare when finals approach, for example. Working together as a family will help you be successful. One way this can be done is through a weekly family meeting to make sure everyone is on the same page about the upcoming week – from meals, to chores and groceries. Your support system is key to your success while balancing parenthood and school.
Need more help? Here's more information on balancing parenthood with schoolwork.