Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Studying with mental health difficulties and while being a parent is possible!

Jenna shares her experiences of studying through the Open University as a single mum who experiences mental health difficulties, and of building her resilience through self-development.


- Jenna Araniello


The Open University has been a massive help to me. Looking after my 2 kids and home-schooling during isolation has been a struggle alongside studying. With a number of extensions and also battling my own mental health difficulties alongside, I was really shocked to see I passed the first year. Also relieved. Studying this through the night while my 2 kids slept, as a single mum, I felt so proud of getting the work done. 

The hard work really paid off. I learnt so much and it seemed too challenging at first. I kept thinking, ‘I can never be a higher degree writer’. However, I gave it my best shot. It has not only helped me find my passion for childcare, but also psychology and mental health. It helped me with my own mental health, keeping my mind occupied throughout the epidemic. The books recommended to me by my own psychologist fit with my university studies and taught me that mental health is important and  interesting, as well as how our minds and bodies work. If it wasn’t for this Childhood Studies degree, I would have never really found out my true interests (mental health, psychology and the study of families). The recent badged OpenLearn course on supporting children’s mental health has helped me understand a lot more of the units. It was really interesting learning about street children, specifically those in India. When this course seemed too hard, reading up on some of the free OpenLearn childcare courses in my free time has helped me keep up my passion for childcare knowledge. As a single mum living on a council estate who did this course, I can’t recommend The Open University enough. I am so proud of passing my last degree, wearing the mortarboard, through the University of Sunderland. It really proves to me that you can do this wherever you are and however much money you have. I am now dedicated to graduating again through The Open University and I’m going to give this second year of my degree everything. It was actually a family worker who came up to me and told me to do this childhood studies course. She said ‘look, you can do it, and you can do it on your phone, that’s what I am doing!’

Yesterday, MumSpace came and provided me with a free Notebook-style laptop in admiration of me doing my university work as a single mum with 2 kids. For a long time, I’ve had to borrow laptops or do assignments on my phone, with money issues too. After the great reviews I gave them, they wanted to help me. This course has helped me to give a lot of childcare businesses well-presented reviews. 

I started second year, and when I saw it was on childhood research, at first I freaked out! I thought I had no interest in it and wouldn’t understand it. I thought, ‘How is childhood studies even relevant to childcare?’ However, since completing the first assignment, I have been doing reading every night on the next topic and I’m thoroughly enjoying it! It not only enlightens me on the different theorists but also on the importance of promoting children’s rights. 

This course has also helped me access different courses, one being a community volunteer training course on Family Hub Family Worker training. Another was online - an American parenting course called ‘Incredible Parenting’. These courses have also helped me with my 2 children. Incredible Parenting was helpful as it helped further build my knowledge and I found out that it’s a course that CAMHS, as well as some social workers, follow. I have also completed the Solihull Parenting course and my daughter’s school have done an introduction on the Thrive Approach. My friend who works in residential care is currently completing a Calm Minds course, which sounds quite interesting. My son’s nursery also helps teach the parents Makaton signs every week, which is also really fascinating. These are all really intriguing areas which I recommend people on this course or similar look into, so they are aware of them. 

While home-schooling, despite my degrees I had no clue on Read Write Inc. that, when understood, will be beneficial for future work which I wish to read up on as a teaching assistant. It’s amazing how much you learn about yourself as well as the topics on the Open University Childhood Studies course.

We understand that studying during coronavirus brings new challenges and uncertainty. Explore tips and tools on Student Space to help you manage through the academic year.



I am Jenna and I am sharing my story as a single mum to show that it doesn’t matter who you are or what your struggles are, they do not define you. You can do this and you are worthy. I also have a Facebook page - you can follow it by clicking MindBodyConfidence ~ My Journey.

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