It’s IEP season for many of us. We prepare, we pray, and we walk through those school doors ready to get our kids everything they need to be as successful as possible. Sometimes they go well. Everyone is on the same page and you hear yes over and over. Sometimes they don’t go well. Your requests are met with silence as they look around the room, waiting for someone else to give you the bad news. Emotions can be high, voices can be raised, and your anxiety level can be elevated. After an IEP meeting, you may need to take time for some self-care.
No matter how your child’s IEP goes, here are five self-care ideas to help you recover.
- Thank God for your child and for giving him or her into your care. For me, the hardest part of IEP meetings is hearing how far behind his typical peers my son is. In our recent meeting to get him in adaptive P.E., the team shared that although he’s ten, his motor skills are closer to those of a two year old. I walked away feeling sad about the skills he lacks. So I prayed and quoted Psalm 139:14 back to God, “James is fearfully and wonderfully made! Wonderful are Your works, and he is one of those works. In fact, he’s one of my very favorites of all You created. Thank you for entrusting him to me. You have given me everything I need to be his mom today.”
- Vent or share with someone who gets it. My first call on the way home is usually to my mom. The Education for All Handicapped Children Act was enacted in 1975, just two years before my sister with Down syndrome was born. Public Law 94-142 was still new to our small town in Oklahoma when Mom started fighting for what my sister needed and by law was required to receive. She’s a pro at IEP meetings. In addition to talking to my mom, I log in to share with my Self-Care for the Special-Needs Mom Facebook group. We pray for each other before IEP meetings and check in after. (We’d love for you to join us!)
- Have a snack and drink some water. Your anxiety before the meeting may have made it hard for you to eat like you should. When I get home, I grab a snack and drink some water (you may prefer tea or coffee). Your snack could be chocolate or carrot sticks—my choice depends on how the meeting goes.
- Take a walk. After sitting still for the meeting, I usually need to move around to clear my head and get any extra energy out. Our dog is always happy to join me! You may not have time for a walk but can squeeze in some stretches or deep breathing exercises. Pay attention to how your body feels and meet those needs.
- Write down what went well and what steps you need to take next. Making myself a note when the meeting is still fresh on my mind will help me feel ready for the next steps. Maybe there’s a follow up meeting. Maybe I need to research different options. Maybe I need to buy equipment for the house that he is using with success at school. Whatever it is, I write it down so I don’t forget.
I hope your IEP meetings this year are full of praise for your child and lots of yeses, but if not, take time for a little self-care after!
Sandra Peoples is a pastor’s wife and mom to two boys. She’s the author of Speechless: Finding God’s Grace in My Son’s Autism and Held: Learning to Live in God’s Grip (a Bible study for special-needs parents).