How to support your Warfighter heading back to school

Service Members are going back to school for undergraduate and graduate degrees in higher numbers in the last decade. This trend—and the fact that some returning students might need extra help while recovering from an injury—makes the role of family support and an encouraging home environment even more important to help optimize classroom performance. It can be challenging to juggle going back to school with military service and home obligations, but pursuing an education is important for personal and career growth—including opportunities for promotion and skills that are transferrable to civilian jobs post service.

Whether your Warfighter takes classes in person, online, or both, the support of family and friends can make the path to success go more smoothly. (Adult learners are more likely to drop out when they lack family support.) So, what can you and your family do to support your Service Member while he or she is taking classes? Here are some ideas to help ease the transition of going back to school:

  • Help with organization and time management.
  • Provide quite time at home without distractions.
  • Offer to proofread assignments if you’re comfortable with your own writing skills.
  • Encourage your student to advocate for himself or herself to professors about schedules, needs, and limitations.
  • Lend a sympathetic ear about frustrations and roadblocks.
  • Ask about assignments and upcoming due dates.
  • If your Service Member is recovering from an injury, has difficulty concentrating, or takes medications that causes drowsiness or other side effects that could affect school performance, remind him or her to be patient while adjusting to new learning challenges.
  • Encourage your Warfighter to connect with others in uniform who are taking classes or to take part in peer counseling, to combat isolation and build camaraderie.
  • Remind your student how important it is to get a good night’s sleep when learning new things.
  • Remember the saying “food for thought”; plan meals and snacks in advance to help ensure your Service Member is well nourished.

Whether your Service Member is working toward a degree or just adding more tools to the toolbox, ask what you can do to help (including whether it would be more helpful for you to step aside and not take part in the process). By anticipating potential challenges and finding ways to handle them—perhaps before the first class even begins—you can make your Warfighter’s education success a family affair.

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