All your friends are gearing up to share September back to school photos of their little ones, but what if you, the parent, are the one getting ready to get back into the study game? Going back to school as a parent isn’t easy, but there are simple ways to manage your time, take advantage of options, and teach your kids to value the example you’re setting. After all, chasing your goals is a pretty powerful example for a parent to set! You’re about to show your kids what grit, perseverance, and passion can do.
But to get there, you’re going to need to learn to navigate your schedule, space, and relationships in a whole new way. You’ll need your family and friends to be on board and in your corner, a clear vision for your daily routine, and a really firm grasp on why you’re embarking on this journey.
It’s going to get stressful. It’s also going to be incredibly rewarding. Here are a few simple tips to help you minimize your back to school stress and maximize your whole family’s reward.
Set clear expectations and boundaries.
The easiest way for your family (and for you) to adjust to your new schedule is clear, easy-to-follow boundaries around time. Spend time discovering a dedicated study time that works with both your class schedule and your personal preferences, then ask your family to help you honor it by meeting their own needs and leaving you to your work during that time. When the routine is clear and consistent, kids are significantly less likely to feel anxious, and you’re much more likely to get the focused time you need.
Make a note of your why, and keep it somewhere you can see.
Chances are if you’re taking the leap to go back to school as a parent, you’ve spent considerable time considering all the pros and cons and decide it was worth the time, money, and energy required. Along the way, things are likely to get stressful, and you may have days you lose sight of why you made that critical decision. Before those days arrive, take a minute to write out your big “why” – the dream that is motivating your choice – and display or keep it somewhere easy to see and find. Having your purpose in front of you might be just the thing to help you pull through the more difficult parts of your back to school parenting journey.
Create, and honor, a good school space.
A sense of destination helps us focus. You’ll be switching back and forth from parent mode to student mode often, so create space and rituals that help you make the adjustment. If you’re going to school on campus, find music or podcasts to listen to as you commute that help you transition into learning mode. If you’re attending school online, find a corner or spot in your house to designate as your “school zone,” and do your best to ONLY do school activities in that space. Ask your family to honor your school zone by keeping it free of their personal belongings or clutter, and respecting that you’re in “school mode” when you’re in it.
Don’t let guilt get in your way.
Parents are champions at feeling guilty (maybe especially you, Mom.) When you start to feel those guilty tugs – comparing yourself to that IG mom who spends all day curating projects for her kids, feeling jealous of your kid’s attachment to other caretakers, or worrying that you’re doing something wrong by missing out on a few activities, remind yourself of your why. You’re modeling something fierce and powerful for your children. By prioritizing yourself, you teach them to do the same for themselves as adults. And raising our kids to be thriving, self-compassionate, motivated adults is EXACTLY what we’re here to do!
Get creative your financial aid options.
Take some time to research the hundreds of scholarships and financial aid options out there specifically for parents who are going back to school. A quick search will guide you to lots of possibilities – a few of our favorites are Custody X Change, a scholarship program for single parents, and the Live Your Dream Award, an educational grant for women that can be up to $10,000.
Help kids feel like part of the team.
By returning to school, you’re modeling all kinds of important values for your kids. They’ll learn from your work ethic, your time management, your willingness to try and learn new things, and your fearless pursuit of a goal. Help them get the most out of your back to school experience by including them as an essential part of your study team. Set family goals for quiet times and clean spaces, and then share in a mutual reward when you achieve them. Brainstorm a big reward together to share when you meet your back to school goal, like a coveted vacation or a fun toy the whole family can use. Keep the reward (and your progress toward the goal) somewhere kids can see, and invite them to help you track your status as you go!
As you dive in to this journey with your family, remember that kids learn from what you do, not just what you say. You’re giving them an incredible gift by modeling your commitment to life-long learning. Even if it isn’t always perfect, there will be SO much good in the journey to come.
Let’s show those little ones how to set a goal and go after it! You’ve got this.