Students who are also parents face unique challenges as they pursue their education at the university level. They juggle many responsibilities and have high demands on their energy and time. When at school, student parents have to consider childcare needs, the health and well-being of their children, and may struggle with feelings of guilt or sadness being away from their children. Student parents may have to miss class in order to stay home with a sick child and worry about their ability to be successful in school. They may also struggle with feelings of isolation from their peers, as they may feel less able to engage with peers outside of class or feel that fellow classmates can’t relate to their lives. When at home with their children, student parents may have difficulty getting work done or studying for exams as parenting needs are often unpredictable and require immediate attention. Add sleep deprivation and lack of self-care to the mix and one can see why many student parents report feeling overwhelmed and burned out by their multiple roles. There is no question that being both a parent and a student is a challenging balance to maintain, but there are tips and resources listed below that may be helpful for you to be aware of.
*Tips for Student Parents:
- Let your professors know you are a parent; if they are prepared in advance they may be more willing to work with you when something arises that may impact your performance in the class.
- Connect with your professors throughout each term (office hours are great for this!). Get THEM invested in your success.
- Find a friend in each of your classes that you can rely on for sharing class notes if you miss a class (and to study with!).
- Coordinate baby-sitting and study time with other student-parents. Take turns watching the children and studying.
- Establish a back-up care plan and identify options for emergency and sick child care.
- Study wherever and whenever you can – between classes and on the bus ride home are prime study times.
- If you are just getting back into school, try taking only one or two classes to ease back into it. You will get a feel for the workload and can progressively work your way up to being a full-time student.
- Never do more than you can handle. It is not worth the stress in the long run.
- Be aware of the programs and services that are available on campus to help you connect with other students and also to help you cope with challenging situations; programs and services such as the Counseling Center, The Women’s Center, Health and Wellness, and The Student Parent Resource Center (more information listed below).
- Take time for self-care even if you have a limited amount of time available to you – it can help you avoid burnout in the long run! Here are some ideas:
- In 60 minutes:
- Go swimming or running
- Have dinner with friends
- Read a good book
- In 30 minutes:
- Take a walk
- Talk to a friend
- Have a good meal
- Watch a funny TV show
- In 5 minutes:
- Enjoy a cup of coffee
- Do deep breathing
- Eat something delicious
- Listen to music
- Pet your cat or dog
*Some of these tips are adapted from the University of Cincinnati Women’s Center website.
UW Campus Resources:
401 Schmitz Hall
- Provides individual, couple, and group counseling to University of Washington students
- Provides workshops on career/major issues
- The Women’s Center:
1st floor, Cunningham Hall
- If you are a student who is returning to school after a prolonged absence, check out the Women’s Center’s re-entry program for support and referral options
109 Elm Hall
- Health and Wellness works with students in difficult situations, when multiple services are needed to provide a safe and supportive response
180 Schmitz Hall
- Provides child care assistance to student parents with children younger than 12 years of age