The COVID-19 pandemic impacted many individuals and demanded rapid transition to changing circumstances. One such “invisible population” that was immensely affected by the current crisis were student parents.

Student parents are often motivated to seek higher education to build better lives for themselves and their children. While aiming for success in higher education as a parent is challenging enough, achieving academic goals in the midst of a pandemic can be emotionally overwhelming and exhausting.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, student parents have coped with the closing of colleges and universities, rapid relocation from on-campus housing, transitions to remote instruction, potential or actual job losses, school closures, child or elder care responsibilities and many other crises. While the effects of the pandemic reverberate throughout U.S. society, student parents’ vulnerabilities are rising to new heights, threatening their ability to keep their families healthy and maintain their studies remotely.

Despite the multiple challenges faced by this population, they are incredibly resilient and strive toward managing their time, creating a balanced life and fulfilling their commitments as caregivers. Colleges and universities play a crucial role in supporting this student population, especially during the time of crisis and helping them toward their path to graduation.

Surviving the unprecedented concerns caused by COVID-19 requires planned strategies and pathways. A few approaches mentioned here may help student parents cope with the challenges of existing crisis as they strive to succeed academically:

  • Acknowledge you are not alone during this time and that support is available.
  • Communicate concerns to faculty and staff members and other university officials. Ask for any assistance as and when needed.
  • Create a daily schedule and allocate time for your three roles: student, parent, worker. Taking turns with your partner/spouse to watch your children helps with completing school and work responsibilities.
  • Celebrate small accomplishments like reading time with your child or completing one assignment.
  • Find a support circle. Look for other student parents who are in a similar situations and exchange concerns or resources.
  • Be aware of academic pressures. Lower expectations and make the most out of the current situation.
  • Be flexible. Follow the mantra, “One task at a time, one day at a time.”
  • Make time for personal wellness. Little things like eating healthy food, drinking water, sleeping adequately, deep breaths, small walks in the neighborhood, chats with family and a gratitude journal help overall wellness.

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Sneha Nayar-Bhalerao is an assistant professor of counselor education in the UHV School of Education, Health Professions & Human Development.

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