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Balancing a Family and Adult Education: Advice for Parents Returning to School

In today’s job market, higher education is often necessary for greater pay and advancement. Returning to college to earn your degree is a massive decision, especially if you have young children.

Parenting is no easy feat. Energy is carefully split between supporting a family financially and emotionally. It’s easy to see why going back to college seems overwhelming to many parents. The choice can feel intimidating or even impossible, but with the right program and support, it’s more achievable than ever.

At Southern Nazarene University, we witness the hard work of our students. The students in our adult education programs strive for success in their academic and personal lives. Their tips for managing time with family and academics can help any parent wanting to return to school.

What to Do Before Enrolling in an Adult Program

You may be anxious about stirring up your family’s schedule. Planning and communicating in advance can calm those anxieties. Coordinate with your spouse ahead of time and voice any concerns you have with them about returning to school.

Speak as a family. Even young children can be a part of the conversation. Older children can especially benefit from hearing about the importance of higher education. If your child feels anxious about changes in family patterns, listen to their fears. Do your best to reassure them and consider speaking with a family counselor.

Consider other factors like work. Discuss your school schedule with your supervisor or Human Resources manager ahead of time. As with family, communication goes a long way and your manager will appreciate you cluing them in to your plans. If travel or distance is an issue for you, consider an online adult program that can be more tailored to your time constraints.

Balancing Work, Family, and Study Time

Scheduling is key. Just ask Lindi Gomez, a working mom and student in SNU’s Organizational Leadership program.

“It is important to set aside time every week to work on my studies, so I don’t become overwhelmed,” Gomez says. “I’ve found that if I explain to my kids that I have homework to do, and have a scheduled time to do it, it helps them adjust easier.”

Sometimes it’s about combining your schedule with your child’s.  Doing this helps Lindi to shape her week.

“Every week, I see what we have going on and then plan my studying around what the kids have going,” she says. “Sticking to a schedule is key to getting it all done!”

The right time management formula is different for each student. Dayna Stark is a Professional Studies advisor at SNU as well as an Organizational Leadership alumna. She shares her experience going through the program.

“When I returned to school as an adult, I had been out of school for 20 years,” Stark says. “I was working full-time and the parent of four children. One of the most important things for me was to try to find time to study that disrupted family life as little as possible. I found myself working on homework after I put the younger kids to bed at night…or during my lunch break. Sunday afternoon was my big push for finalizing most assignments.”

How to Cope with Stress

All students know there are inevitable moments of stress during academia. Student-parents each have their own method for working through it.

“One of the best tips I can offer is to take time to decompress when you feel overwhelmed,” Gomez says. “Sometimes taking an hour break from homework and studies makes a huge difference. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I take a time out and focus on something that helps to relieve stress. It helps to have a clear mind when I return to my homework.

Stark found a way to spend more time with her children while working on homework.

“One of my favorite memories from the Organizational Leadership program is when I was working on a project on my living room floor,” she says. “My kids were in the room working on homework as well. We laughed and helped each other with our work. It was one of those special moments that stuck with me.”

A group of college graduates hold up their degree at a graduation ceremony.

Earning a Degree for Your Family

“Since obtaining my degree, I have had two promotions that would not have been possible without my degree,” Stark says. “I’m eight weeks away from completing my master’s degree and I am looking forward to the opportunities that it will bring.”

It goes beyond career advancement; a degree sets the tone of success for an entire family.

“The time goes by so fast,” Gomez says. “Not only are you bettering yourself and getting a degree, but you’re showing your kids that with a little hard work and determination, anything can be achieved.”

Find an Adult Program that Supports You

Look for a program that suits your unique needs as a parent. SNU offers adult programs that fit within your lifestyle. Whether on-campus or online, Southern Nazarene offers an experience that prioritizes faith, education, and personal growth.

Stark tells the students she advises they are more than capable of earning a degree.

“I tell my students all the time that they can do this,” she says. “I would have never completed my degree through a traditional format. The accelerated format of the Organizational Leadership program with an accelerated format allowed me to be a full-time employee, a full-time student, and a full-time mother.”

“The professors and staff are a great source of support and encouragement,” Gomez says. “They are always helpful whenever you need them. They offer encouragement daily. They are understanding of the things that may come up outside of school and work with you to be successful in the program.”

Want to learn more about the adult education programs Southern Nazarene offers? We’d love to connect with you. Request more information about our adult education program or contact us.