Student parents face a lot of challenges while pursuing an education at university level. Not only do they have the pressures of meeting course deadlines and getting adequate grades, but they also have to juggle this with their responsibilities as a parent and consider childcare needs as a priority.
Many students who are parents as well, report feeling overwhelmed and burnt out by the pressures placed upon them. Physical symptoms such as sleep deprivation are common and often mental illnesses such as depression and acute anxiety can go undetected. It’s a difficult balancing act but there are ways it can be achieved which will hopefully lessen the stress caused.
1. Be Honest
Tell the university and your professors at the start of your course that you are a parent. If they know from the beginning that you have important commitments in your personal life they will hopefully be more willing to work with you when problems arise. It’s important to be honest with them; avoid coming up with a lie for why you missed a deadline and they will respect you more for telling the truth.
2. Find Support
All good universities offer support for students, whether it’s a counseling program online or one that you can access on campus, they are there to help. It’s a good idea to have a point of contact in case things get too much and you’re struggling to cope. Some of the university services might involve group activities which could be great if you are starting to feel isolated from your peers and will give you the chance to connect with people in similar situations.
3. Develop a Plan
The best tool for helping you to achieve a balance is organization. It might seem like an impossible task when you’ve got a to-do list as long as your arm but if you have a plan of action that covers all eventualities you will feel better prepared in the long term.
4. Communicate with Others
Speak to other parents that you know and identify if there are times when you will be able to coordinate baby-sitting with them. If you know other students who are parents see if you can establish a baby-sitting and study plan, taking it in turns to look after each other’s children and in turn getting your work done.
5. Use Time Effectively
It’s so easy to fall into the procrastination trap especially if you’re exhausted and the last thing you want to do is sit and work on your online masters in counseling assignment. The solution is to make note of the times when you are at your most productive and assess whether you have any spare time at these points. For example, you might work best late at night once your child is asleep so develop a plan to do an hour’s worth of studying at this time every night.
Consider what times of day you are usually on your own – such as the bus ride to university – and make it into effective study time. This idea works best if you have a clear structure and plan ahead what you want to do in this short window of opportunity.
And most importantly of all, try to make time for yourself because everyone needs a form of escape, even if it’s just a good book it’ll help you avoid burn-out in the long run.