When adults are asked about their high school experience, the response generally falls into one of two categories – ’good’ or ‘bad’. Commonly, each camp agrees that the less said about education during teenage years the better.
Returning to study as an adult learning poses challenges that very few teenagers ever faced in Years 7 to 12 and is especially true of parents with young children. The good news is that the skills you gain as a parent can be exceptionally useful when juggling the demands of study (full or part-time) with those of a young family. Here’s a guide to help you make going back to school a rewarding experience that you will want share with others.
A critical skill in most aspects of life, time management becomes essential when you return to study. You may find it works to visually ‘map out’ your day, week, or month to maximise what you can get done in the time you have. This can be done with a calendar, day-planner diary, or even an Excel spreadsheet. There are also apps you can download to help plan out your time.
Consider all the areas of your life that eat into your time such as studying at home, tending to children, exercising, household chores and socialising. Many young parents find it helpful to establish a routine and to do the same things at roughly the same time each day. In that way, a learned behaviour around your study time will be established quickly and be harder to break.
Learn to ask for help. Finding support is easier if you have close relatives living nearby, but even without that physical support from your family, don’t be afraid to ask others. When it comes to kids, day-care is not the only option and can often be a larger expense. You might find that friends, neighbours, work colleagues and other members of your social circle will be more than willing to lend a hand, especially if they have kids of their own, as it can result in an instant play date!
Even a precious hour or two to yourself, whether to study, exercise or take a mental ‘time-out’ can refresh the mind and give you a better perspective.
Look out for number one
Becoming a parent can lead to all your self-care focus turned to the care of your children. Every parent knows what this is like, however if you’re not looking after yourself mentally and physically, it can be a very slippery slope towards under-performance in all areas of your life.
Things you can do to put yourself first are;
- To eat well and stay hydrated at all times
- Getting roughly the same amount of sleep (at the same time) every night.
- Staying positive. You can improve your mood by simply getting out in the sunshine, taking the dog for a walk, going to the gym or calling a friend even just for ten minutes. Make the time to do these things as it will allow you to be more productive in your study and work time.
- Anything that allows you to ‘switch off’ for a while will have benefits beyond the immediate.
- Above all, stay positive! Positivity is powerful and having a positive attitude towards tasks like study allows you to get things done and have enjoyment in doing so.
Technology is your Friend
The days of handing in hard copies of assignments or reports are thankfully long gone. There is still the same amount of work, but technology allows you to be far more time efficient.
Take advantage of all the online tools at your disposal;
- Download apps on your smartphone that help with study, mindfulness or time management tools.
- Student chat groups are a great resource for ideas, so keep in touch with them as well.
- Email questions to your learning coach the moment you think of them.
- Set a countdown clock on your computer or phone to remind you of important deadlines. Put everything in a calendar with suitable reminders.
- If you can afford to, buy any software that will make your life easier.
Remember that you’re investing in your future, and that is worth a lot.
Keep your life balanced
When furthering your education remember to be mindful of your mental wellbeing. The relationships you’ve spent years building deserve to keep thriving alongside your new commitments. Encourage your friends to drop in now and then for a coffee and a chat to make sure you don’t isolate yourself in taking on new commitments.
Expand your social contacts by joining a playgroup, a great place to be encouraged by like-minded people with similar lifestyles to you. If you enjoy a sport, keep playing it, even if you can’t play as often. A healthy body means a healthy mind, and that’s exactly what you’ll need when you return to study.