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Online Degrees

Part of Western Governors University

August 11, 2021

Online University Experience

Advice From WGU Student Parents: Setting An Example

Taking on a degree program can be challenging during the best of times. But when you’re navigating being a parent in the middle of your educational pursuit, it might seem downright impossible. However, many students at WGU are also parents. Single parents, working parents—thousands of student parents have been where you are and accomplished their educational goals with WGU. Better yet, they’ve discovered ways to include their family in their pursuit of a degree and learned how to set an example for their children in the process.

If you’re still debating how to fit a degree program into your busy life as a parent and how you can do so in a way that has a positive impact on your family, just take the advice from these WGU graduates. They were once like you but found a way through in a way that drastically changed their lives—and the lives of their kids.

How Student Parents Set the Example for Their Children

1. Engage Your Children in Your Learning

Encouraging your kids to be involved in your schooling is an excellent way to demonstrate to them how learning is power. As they see how you apply yourself to your coursework, they’ll be inspired to do the same with theirs.

“Although they may be at a different level, if they are of school age, they understand educational expectations,” noted Angela Gouker. “Tell them about your goals, paper writing and course completion progress. My children were just as invested in my education as I am of theirs.”

An added bonus to this approach? Parents can give their kids more attention by collaborating on schoolwork together. “I felt this really helped the most during times when they wanted my attention—I could give it because I was working through coursework,” Angela said. “They understood the importance of what I was doing, so their disappointment was easier to handle.”

This is a tactic Christopher Conver also employed, adding that including his family in the adventure made them a part of it. “We study together, we do projects together, and occasionally we have done tests at the same time,” he said. “My oldest is about to start high school, and we have spent many nights in the living room studying together. My youngest is a toddler and loves story time, so she gets to hear all about cybersecurity.”

And it also created the opportunity for a different kind of family bonding. “The best advice I was given was from my mom,” Christopher shared. “She told me that it wasn't about how much time I spent with my family; it's about what we do when we spend time together.” So while it’s important to make sure you have quality time with your family and do things outside of school, including them in your educational pursuit will resonate with them in positive ways for years to come.

2. Celebrate Successes and Failures Together

It can be tempting to ignore lower test scores, botched projects, or other instances when you didn’t ace your coursework. But doing so robs your kids of learning a very valuable lesson: showing them how to fail is just as important as showing them how to succeed. And when they get to see you succeed, making them part of celebrating your success can create long-lasting memories.

“Before I started my master’s degree I was full of stress on the effects of my choices on my children,” admitted Kayla Pendlebury. “Something that helped and encouraged me was allowing my children to be a part of my education.”

This is when Kayla got creative. “I made a paper chain,” she adds. “There was one link per class that I needed to pass. On each link I wrote a fun family activity—ones that I knew would motivate my children and me. Each time I passed a class I would allow one of my children to rip off a link; then we would do the activity that was written on the link.”

The result? Kayla’s kids became a source of encouragement, asking her to get her classes done so they could have fun. “This idea allowed my children to take pride in what I was doing, allowed me to celebrate my successes, and allowed my family to grow closer and make memories while I furthered my education,” Kayla shared. Her example proves that you can be open with your kids about your educational journey in a way that can support all of you.

Mom and son doing online school

3. Recognize That Your Children are Always Watching You

They say kids are like sponges, absorbing everything around them—which is why it’s crucial for you to show them how to handle life’s ups and downs. Being an example for them will help them develop skills that will help them manage the ups and downs in their own lives.

“I reminded myself that kids learn often by watching their parents, so by getting my degree while they watched, they would see that not everyone's path looks the same and that's ok,” said Kelcy Workman. “We were all at home, learning together during the pandemic, so I think they enjoyed having another connection to me in that we were all students at the same time. I spoke with them often about what I was doing and my goals.”

Helen Callans also noticed that her kids followed her lead when it came to their schoolwork. “I never had to tell them to do their homework because they saw me doing mine, and as I was studying, they did the same,” she said. “They also got to come to my college graduation. As I look back as a parent, I think example and working for what you love is the best guidance you can give your kids.”

4. Show Them That Sacrifice is Worth It

Late nights of studying. Missing out on family events. Family dinners of fast food. There’s no doubt you’ll make a lot of sacrifices in taking on a degree program along with raising a family, but there are ways for your kids to understand what it means to you—and for them—for you to get your degree.

“When you share your goals, you will receive greater support from your spouse/partner and children in achieving them,” said Rhyannon Jovan. “It’s far from easy, as many sacrifices will need to be made to accomplish these goals. When you reach the finish line, your family will see what teamwork and dedication look like and will be more than willing to do the same to reach their goals!”

Marsha Donaldson agrees and admits that her degree journey wasn’t easy. “I missed a few events and was not able to spend a lot of time with my five children,” she said. “Sometimes I would feel guilty about that, but then I remembered that I was showing my children that sacrifices are necessary to achieve worthwhile things.”

But to her, the end result was worth it. Why? “I also showed them that it is worth it to invest in your education,” Marsha shared. “Now I have more time with my kids and grandchildren because I was able to have a career that values work-life balance.”

And isn’t that what it’s all about in the end? So while it may be challenging as you’re going through it, the more you can demonstrate and explain to your family that there will be sacrifices, the more they’ll understand why these sacrifices are worthwhile for the overall goal of getting your degree.

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