The Family Project: Mother’s college plans
Q. I am the mother of two young children, and I have decided to go back to college to finish my degree. I also have to work part-time. How do I find time to study and take care of my kids, too?
The panel began by offering congratulations to the mother for making the decision to improve her life and the lives of her children.
To answer the mother’s question, panelist Denise Continenza asked whether the mother had taken an inventory of her support system before deciding to go back to school: “Who will be able to help her by watching the children. for example? That is going to be really important for the success of her job and college studies.”
“In doing her inventory,” Mike Daniels observed, “she needs to consider what her relationships are with the people in her support system, and what their schedules are. She needs to schedule in a way that allows enough time for what she needs to do.”
The key is being organized, according to panelist Erin Stalsitz. The mother should lay out her schedule on paper, and color-code blocks of time to see when she has open spaces to study.
If she doesn’t have enough time blocks, she should explore alternatives, such as the children spending Saturday or an evening with grandmother or their father, Stalsitz said. “She should have a schedule, have a plan and be disciplined, but flexible when necessary.”
Panelist Chad Stefanyak encouraged the mother to talk to her children about the changes that are coming: “Their time with mom is going to be cut down, but she should explain that there also will be benefits to everyone in the future.”
Panelist Pam Wallace added the suggestion that, depending on their ages, the children could sit at a table with their mother and color or do homework while she is studying.
Stalsitz and Wallace encouraged the mother to begin by taking only one or two courses because time will be limited and she also needs to find a little time for herself, even if only one hour a day.
Continenza noted that some colleges have support systems to keep students, including adult-learners, from dropping out: “Retention is very important. She should check with the counseling office to see what is available, and explore the possibility of co-op child care.”
Other suggestions included talking to her professors about her situation, and getting her assignments ahead of time so she has enough time to complete them in case of an emergency.
This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, Program Coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist, CTS; Chad Stefanyak, school counselor; Denise Continenza, extension educator, and Erin Stalsitz, Lehigh County Children and Youth Casework Supervisor.
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The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.
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