While the image of typical college students may be one of carefree teens fresh out of high school, the reality is that more than one out of five students may also be raising children. Statistics show that the majority of these student parents are single mothers.
These parents are juggling a lot, and they need our support. Not only are they working their way to degrees, but many times they’re also holding part-time jobs, trying to keep food on the table, and raising their children. This is all a monumental job, and it’s extremely difficult without a helping hand.
If you work for a college or university, you may be in an excellent position to help these parents, but you don’t need a university job to make a difference. If you know someone who is parenting on campus, consider one of these ways you can offer support.
If you don’t work on campus:
1. Offer childcare services. Childcare is often one of the biggest hurdles for parenting students. Offering to babysit for a few hours can be a huge weight off a mom’s or dad’s shoulders. Keep in mind that parents may need someone to help care for their children during class time and even for a few hours here and there so they can get homework done.
2. Run errands for them. With all their obligations, student parents are busy. One way you can help ease the burden is to offer to run regular errands like grocery shopping.
3. Take them a meal. Any parent who is raising a child while attending school has a lot on his or her plate, and making sure everyone is fed is a daily task that can feel overwhelming. Bringing a meal is a small gesture that can be a huge blessing to parenting students.
If you do work on campus:
4. Offer facilities where parents can breastfeed, pump, or change diapers. If you’re in a leadership position where you can make a meaningful change on a college campus, one of the most impactful things you can do is put diaper-changing stations in restrooms and offer women a comfortable, private place where they can pump or breastfeed.
5. Offer family housing. Finding affordable housing can be a significant struggle for parents, especially when those parents are also students working towards their degree. Living in a dorm is unrealistic for a parent with a small child, which is why offering alternatives can be so helpful. Family housing helps accommodate those students in non-traditional situations and gives them more opportunities for success.
6. Create a support group for parents. Despite the fact that nearly a quarter of college students are parents, many people in this position still feel alone. Facilitate a support group — either online or in-person — where these parents can get together, meet one another, and offer advice and encouragement.
7. Create a family-friendly environment. There are many small changes you can implement around campus to make it more welcoming for children and families. Consider placing toys outside of administrative offices, offering weekly playgroups for young children, and making sure parents have easy access to information about family resources. If you’re looking for bigger ways to help, consider instituting an on-site daycare facility so that parents have affordable (or free) childcare options while they attend class.
8. Offer designated parking for pregnant and parenting students. Most college students are used to walking long distances from the parking lot to their classes, but this isn’t always easy for a pregnant mom or a parent with young kids in tow. Designating spaces for pregnant women and families is another way to make the campus more family-friendly.
As a pro-life community, we know that support for families doesn’t end after a child is born. Parents who are working to complete their college education are striving to provide a better life for themselves and their children. We can do these parents a great service by offering them our support.
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