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You Can Go Back to School as a Parent —Here’s How

January 26th, 2024
Mother taking an online class from home

Parents face several challenges when attempting to return to school. Whether you need to finish high school or a college degree, balancing family responsibilities, such as childcare and household duties, with academic commitments can be demanding. Financial constraints are also common. As parents must juggle work, family, and study obligations, time management becomes crucial. Additionally, finding a supportive network and resources to aid in transitioning back to school can be challenging. 

As a high school diploma program, Grad Solutions’ recognizes that students need to overcome these challenges so they can finish school and improve their lives (find out more here). When students who are also parents successfully navigate these challenges, they are free to achieve their educational goals. If you’re a parent but want to finish school, there is a way to return to school while thriving as a family. 

Know Your Limits

First, understanding and acknowledging your limits as a parent is crucial for success in school. Being aware of your limits helps you plan and think about how to address your areas of weakness. Here are the benefits of knowing your limits:

Maintain Well-Being: Recognizing your limits helps to preserve your physical and mental well-being. Constantly pushing beyond your capabilities can lead to burnout, stress, and exhaustion, negatively impacting your overall health.

Manage Time Realistically: Knowing your limits enables you to manage your time more effectively. Setting realistic expectations allows you to allocate time appropriately to different responsibilities, balancing parenting duties with personal and professional commitments.

Photo looking down at an open monthly planner with two pens sitting on top

Set Clear Expectations: Understanding your limits fosters and establishes boundaries that lead to healthier relationships with your children and other family members. It also helps to set clear expectations with your family. Involving them in your plans and the support you need will create a more positive and supportive family environment.

Reduce Stress: Acknowledging your limits reduces stress by preventing the constant strain of trying to exceed unrealistic expectations. You can avoid overwhelming yourself by trying to do too much right away. “Dip your toes” in the water by testing out life with a few classes to start, then build up to taking on more classes. 

Set Realistic Goals: Understanding your limits helps in setting achievable goals. Being realistic about what you can handle will help you set achievable goals. This is important for personal development and the expectations you set for your children. Realistic goals contribute to a sense of accomplishment and motivation.

Knowing your limits as a parent is not a sign of weakness but a strategy for maintaining balance and well-being to foster positive relationships within your family. This ensures that your academic pursuits will be sustainable for the long term.

Make a Back-up Plan for Child Care

When attending school as a parent, things could arise unexpectedly and derail your academic pursuits. Access to backup child care is essential for parents who are also students for several reasons:

Unforeseen Events: Unexpected situations, such as the sudden illness of your child or the primary caregiver, can arise. Keeping backup child care ensures you can still attend classes or fulfill academic commitments when unforeseen events occur.

Schedule Flexibility: Student parents often have varying schedules, including classes, study sessions, and exams. Back-up child care provides flexibility, allowing parents to attend these academic commitments without worrying about childcare arrangements.

Consistent Attendance: Traditional in-person classes require regular attendance. Having reliable backup childcare ensures that students with kids can consistently attend classes and participate in academic activities without disruptions.

Prepare for Emergencies: In case of emergencies, such as unexpected work commitments or personal emergencies, having a backup childcare option provides a safety net. This assistance is especially important for students without extended family nearby for immediate support.

Meet Deadlines: Parenting and academic responsibilities often come with tight deadlines. Back-up child care ensures that parents can meet these deadlines without compromising on the quality of their work.

Maintain Well-Being: Juggling parenting and academic responsibilities can be exhausting. Having backup child care allows parents to take breaks, prioritize self-care, and prevent burnout.

Enhance Academic Performance: With reliable child care in place, parents can fully engage in their studies, participate in extracurricular activities, and take advantage of academic resources, ultimately enhancing their overall academic performance.

Child happily playing with a toy camera

Back-up child care contributes to a healthier work-life balance for student parents. It allows them to navigate the demands of parenting and academics more smoothly, creating a more sustainable and fulfilling lifestyle.

One advantage to being an Arizona-based Grad Solutions student is that they have access to childcare resources through our HUB Locations. These centers provide several resources and support to help parents navigate high school life with kids better… learn more here!

Give Yourself Flexibility

One consideration for going back to school is class flexibility. There are different class “modes” that impact your learning experience. There are distinct differences between in-person, hybrid, and classes that are fully online. 

In-person classes require students to physically attend lectures and interact with instructors and peers at scheduled times. This traditional format fosters immediate feedback and real-time discussions. 

Hybrid classes combine in-person and online elements, allowing for a blend of traditional classroom settings and virtual learning. This approach provides flexibility, with some sessions conducted in person and others remotely, catering to diverse schedules and preferences. 

Online Classes offer the utmost flexibility, enabling students to access lectures, assignments, and discussions from anywhere with an Internet connection.  Grad Solutions’ high school diploma program is online and free, allowing students to learn on their schedule, including during nap time! 

Build a Support System for Success

A crucial aspect of successful parenting as a student is the availability of a support system. When a student’s parent has people to support them with tasks like last-minute babysitting, meal preparation, or bedtime routine help, they are much more likely to succeed in school. These people can help them juggle the demands of parenthood. This support system can include friends, family, or professional childcare services. Building a network of reliable supporters can make all the difference for student parents. 

Caregiver giving a pacifier to an infant while another holds him

Successfully returning to school as a parent hinges on strategic planning and support systems. Recognizing personal limits is critical to help the parent to establish realistic expectations for academic and family commitments. Backup child care creates a safety net for unforeseen circumstances and enables consistent attendance in classes and study sessions. Opting for flexible class schedules ensures adaptability to the demands of parenting, allowing for a balance between coursework and family responsibilities. Then, cultivating a support network of family or friends that can support a student’s academic pursuits. With these in place, a parent navigating the challenges of returning to school can pave the way for a successful academic journey.

Additional Resources

Childcare Resources

  • Child Care Aware of America: This organization provides a free hotline for childcare resource help and lists state-by-state resources for families. Families in which at least one parent is in the military may be eligible for childcare fee assistance programs.
  • Child Care and Development Fund: Part of Benefits.gov, the Child Care and Development Fund offers assistance to low-income families who need childcare due to work and school.
  • Child care grants: Grants for parents going back to college are available either from the college they’re attending or from the state government. Browse programs based on the state you live in at Benefits.gov.
  • Head Start: Head Start programs are school readiness programs for children (from infancy to age 5) from low-income families.
  • Office of Child Care: The Office of Child Care is part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Each state has an individual office you can contact for assistance.

Student Parent Financial Aid Resources


5 Lessons I Learned After Going Back to School as a Mom 

10 Considerations Before Going Back to School as a Parent 

Going Back to School as a Parent: Tips for Success 

Tips and Considerations for Going Back to School as a Parent

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