Returning to College with a Family: Coping with the Lifestyle Shift

If you have decided to go back to college, this represents a big change for the entire family’s lifestyle. It can set a great example for any children you have, showing them that they are never too old to get more education and better themselves. However, it can also be tough. In most cases, the family will need to make the shift to living on a single income or you will be facing a much bigger workload. Here’s how to make the situation work.

Family Meeting

If ever a time called for a family meeting, this is it. Big changes are ahead for everyone. If you were a stay-at-home parent, children will need to get accustomed to not having you around as often to prepare meals and run errands. If you worked outside the home, there will be less money to go around unless you are keeping your job. Working and attending college means far less free time as well as time for household chores and other participation with the family. Whatever the specifics of the situation, a family meeting can help set new expectations. Vacations might be scaled down, and kids might need to learn to give you some space to do schoolwork. Everyone but you might also need to pick up some additional chores to keep the household running smoothly.

Budgeting Money

Even if you remain in the same job, there are going to be additional expenses unless your employer is covering all tuition and related costs. A budget can be important, especially if switching to a single income. Moreover, depending on the age of your children, you may have some extra child care expenses. The budget should include details about how to pay for school. You may be eligible for federal financial aid, and you can take out private student loans as well. You could have one advantage here over high school students heading into college, which is a strong credit record. You might be offered a lower interest rate on the funds you borrow privately than on your federal loans.

Time Management

Even if you were a time-management pro at your job, you’re going to have to figure out how to juggle a very different type of schedule. One of the challenges for you and your family may be that your schedule changes each semester. Depending on the age and temperament of their children, you may want to schedule your classes and any other responsibilities that require you to be on campus around their school hours. However, there may be situations, such as a required class that is only offered at one time, when this is not possible. Keep in mind that it’s good for your children to see you working toward a goal.

Making Family Time

Even if you’re juggling college classes and work, you need to build in family time. Low-key activities that don’t cost much in time and energy, such as movie nights, can be a way to stay connected. You’ll also want to consider how to build in a little one-on-one time with your spouse and each of your children.

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