Thriving Together Series: Stress Management for Student Parents

By: Emilie Dubert, Director, Contemporary Student Services

stress management for student parents Thriving Together

“This struggle is real. The juggle is real. That’s why everyone should hire working mothers. They are put in crazy situations all the time and are forced to problem-solve. They are some of my most resourceful employees.” – Sara Blakely

College students who are also parents can face intense stress. These stress management tips for student parents can strengthen well-being even in these challenging times.

Another Monday morning in our house: As we speed toward 7:44 a.m., the moment when the school bus arrives, there is a whirlwind of backpacks and lunchboxes and shoes to be tied and hairbrushes and school laptops and library books and snacks and masks and, well, basically everything in the house except the kitchen sink. I walk/run my two elementary students to the corner just in time to get them on the bus and pack up my preschooler for a day at daycare. By the time 9:00 a.m. hits and I am ready to log onto my computer for an eight-hour work day, it hits me that I have been awake for five hours already, as a midterm paper is due in a class I am taking this week and the only time I have to work on it in peace is before the sun comes up.

Whether you are one of the four million undergraduates who is parenting while in college, one in 20 graduate students who is parenting while pursuing a doctoral or master’s degree, or working a full-time job while parenting, you know how challenging the past year has been for parents and caregivers. A recent nationwide poll from the American Psychological Association found that U.S. parents are experiencing higher levels of stress during COVID-19, compared to adults without children, given the added challenges of managing children’s at-home schooling, halts to extracurricular activities, and navigating children’s emotions around uncertainty and change (American Psychological Association, 2020). Prior to the pandemic, employees and college students with children were already wearing multiple hats and balancing their time down to the minute, but Covid-19 has pushed parents to the breaking point.

If you find yourself struggling to manage your stress, there are resources available to assist you survive and thrive during this difficult time.

Financial Assistance

If money has become a source of stress, the federal government has recognized the need to better support students during this time. In March 2020, Congress passed the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” or CARES Act, which included $6 billion in emergency financial aid for college students. This aid can be used to cover costs of housing, food, child care, and other expenses. Mason is still disseminating funds to students in need through the Student Emergency Assistance Fund.

Separate Work, School, and Family Time

As hard as it may seem, segmenting your time to focus on the present is a way to reduce your stress. Children of all ages can sense when your mind is somewhere else and you are stressed. However, leaving work at work and school at school helps you focus on being the best family member you can be, even if it is just for a short time before you return to your other duties. Pediatrician J. Michael Wertman recommends putting problems and stress into a box to compartmentalize them, giving you more energy to focus on your children.

Connect with Other Parents

“Form connections with families whose kids are similar in age to relate to others in the same boat,” suggests pediatrician Svetlana Pomeranets. This can be connecting with other student parents on campus in between classes or chatting with a co-worker who is also feeling the same parenting pressures you are. While it might seem like there isn’t time to add another thing to your plate, carving out time to be with other parents can greatly reduce your stress.

These are challenging times, especially for parents and caregivers. Yet we continue to cope with our new reality as a campus community, supporting each other’s well-being through our challenges.

Additional Resources

Contemporary Student Services serves students who have had more experiences in their lives than most college students before coming to Mason – such as students who are working professionals, parents, or in the military.

Mason’s Student Emergency Assistance Fund assists students who need financial help during a temporary crisis.

The Cleveland Clinic offers these stress management tips for parents.

Mason presents a variety of student parent events on Mason 360.

Mason’s Human Resources and Payroll department maintains an Employee Resource and Support Groups list, which includes information for both working mothers and working fathers.

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