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The grind through medical school is undoubtedly one the most challenging and anxiety-provoking times of your life, and if you’re doing it along with balancing children or a family, it can very quickly become overwhelming. And in the midst of the pandemic, with people getting serious about social distancing, universities and workplaces alike going remote, the coronavirus presents us with another twist--balancing all of our baseline responsibilities while simultaneously parenting. It’s like a series of snow days that just won’t seem to end.

Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly silver linings to the situation. This is a time where many of us are getting an opportunity to spend more time with our children than would otherwise be possible. There are chances for one-on-one learning with your children, the ability to be present for daily tasks you might not normally be around for, and overall just an increased volume of face-time that is far from the norm in our general day to day lives.

But, with that said, it can be a very trying time, especially in the setting of needing productive study time yourself. Balancing this act is an obstacle like no other, as you’re essentially taking on multiple jobs as a parent/teacher and student, each of which in themselves is a full time operation.

Below are hopefully some tips to help make your COVID-19 era parent/student... a bit more balanced and productive. Note that the applicability of some of these will depend on the age of the child, but in any case here we go!

Reset expectations

A productive 8-10 hour uninterrupted work day is not reasonable with small humans in the home who depend on you for their very survival. Understand that it is possible to get this much study time completed within the day, but it will undoubtedly be broken up and will likely require the entire day and night to do so.

Find where they can be autonomous

This is especially helpful to take advantage of when kids aren’t able to be napping. It doesn’t have to be much, even if they’re able to draw or color quietly for 30 minutes, this is a chance to pack in some work during that window of time. Use alphabet books for the younger ones to learn and write their letters; for those with slightly older school-age children, have workbooks available for various subject types for them to work on each day.

Devices can be okay

Every part of the day doesn’t have to be filled with educational activities or fun. This is where screen time can come in to give you a break. Now, this was a major obstacle for our household, and it still remains that way at times, but I think the key here is just setting limits and boundaries. Thankfully, there are numerous quality, educational options available and this makes a big difference. Again, the key is in setting limits but this can also be a chance each day to accomplish a lot when it comes to studying and being present for online meetings without as much distraction.

The last piece of advice is quite possibly the most important:

Give yourself a break

There will be days where you feel you are failing as a parent. There will be days you feel you are failing as a student. And, sometimes, there will be days where you will feel like you’re failing at both. Do the best you can, but acknowledge that you are human and we all have limitations.

Through all of this, be human, and be happy when you can. Give your kids attention, and don’t devote yourself exclusively to your work. Work hard when you can, but also be cognizant that this is a time to take advantage of the fact that you are at home.


Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

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Dr. Alex Hicks

Dr. Alex Hicks

Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, Alex is a kind, dedicated, and engaging tutor who is committed to helping his students succeed. Alex joined MST with years of teaching experience that includes mentoring and tutoring second-year medical students for Step 1, and individually tutoring students in chemistry. He has experienced great satisfaction in translating his successes on the USMLEs to other students! In your work together, Alex will always push you to do your best while his grounded, can-do attitude will ensure you approach your studies honestly and enthusiastically. Outside of academics, he enjoys spending time with his wife and two young children, as well as several other hobbies including guitar, golf, snowboarding, hunting, and largemouth bass fishing.
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