EN&MH: Self Care for Parents Before/During/After Meetings

Welcome back my friends. Exploring Neurodiversity and Mental Health is taking a step away from the informational side and leaning towards self care-this week focusing on self care for parents before and after diagnostic and school meetings!

I’ll be completely real and tell you the reason we’re jumping into a self care is because this Mama needs reminders as the week progresses. Friday we have a meeting with the school psychologist and Monkey’s team. We will be discussing findings and moving forward with further testing or accommendations. I shouldn’t be nervous at all! We have a basic idea of his needs, we have a great relationship with these people. But my anxiety has me over thinking, obsessing, and picking apart every little part.

We all know I deal with anxiety and intrusive thoughts from OCD. (Which, is obviously not a postpartum issue, but one I will live with forever-and probably have been since childhood.) However, these feelings have reminded me so many other parents out there feel like this! While I am blessed to have a background in education, many do not and these meetings with teachers and professionals can be scary and hard. This nervousness is not a “me only” sort of thing.

I’ve shared tips to get ready and what to expect for IEP meetings and parent teacher conferences before, but today I want to share some advice on self care for the parents. You guys need loving through this process too, both before and after the meetings.

Self Care Before:

  • Make sure everything is ready. There are a few things that you can prepare before the meeting. Writing any questions out will help remind you of what you want to discuss during the meeting. Researching your rights will give you a leg up(below I tell you why.). Having all te paperwork together before the meeting begins or even day of will keep you from stressing too much over it day of. I highly recommend having a folder at all times for any of your kids paper work, but that whole folder is not necessary every meeting.
  • Know your rights. I cannot stress this enough; as a parent you need to know your child’s rights. In the state of Massachusetts, they are mandated to give you a packet that detail these rights. Read it. Take full advantage of this packet and highlight, write out what you think isn’t being done, look up more information online. Your child has rights and if you know them, you are more capable of having their needs met.
  • Don’t forget to eat and drink water. This sounds so obvious, right? But it isn’t always. Sometimes meetings are at weird times in the day and you end up starving through it. Makng sure you’re well fed before going in takes away the distraction of being hungry or thirsty. It also can help settle your anxiety or worry if you have a full stomach and won’t feel hunger pains during.
  • Set up care for any younger children as soon as possible. Y’all if you’re like me…house full, ya feel? We are ever blessed my Mema babysits readily during the school day, especially since all our other babysitters are well…working as teachers! But even with how available my Mema tends to be, there’s always the possiblity she will have something else going on. Try and plan your younger kids care as early as possible, so your spouse and/or the child’s parent is able to come with you.
  • BRING SOMEONE WITH YOU. I know that this may not always be possible, but whenever you can, bring someone with you/ A second pair of eyes, a second pair of ears…a second person will catch all those things you may miss. You can create a plan of attack so you do not feel bullied to make a decision that is best for the school and not best for your child. Having a second person there is also such a relief for

Self Care During:

  • Bring in a water to drink. Sometimes the rooms are hot, sometimes they’re stuffy, other times it’s just plain old anxiety giving you dry mouth. No matter what it is, a water bottle can do a world of difference making you feel better.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask any questions. Ask what things mean, for them to repeat anything, why they want to do certain tests or services. Believe me when I tell you this: no education professional laughs at the caring and inquisitive parent in a meeting. We talk about the ones who act like they don’t care, the ones who don’t show up. Every so often they roll their eyes at the ones who are so certain they know better. But parents who show up to truly show up? Those ones we love.
  • Write everything down. Remembering all the information given to you is hard. Write down what is said and hold them to what they promise will be done! Writing things down can also help remind you at a later date exactly of what is said and what is supposed to be done.
  • Request something positive is said throughout the meeting. One of my favorite parts about my son’s team is that they truly adore him. Every single one at our last meeting had something GOOD to say about him…and I know that is not always the case. Your child’s team needs to be able to find positives in their behaviors and who they are. This is a non negotiable; there’s not a lot I share on this blog I will say is set in stone. This is one of those things. 

Self Care After:

  • Take time to talk it out before going back to work/parenting. I am a huge fan of unwinding after intense meeting, whether they are for school, funerals, court, or foster care review meetings. You need that moment to sit still, think about, and hammer out everything that just happened in your meeting. This can help you immensely when it comes to sorting through any emotions you may have about it.
  • Properly store all the paper work. Again, I am going to push: have yourself a folder for all your child’s education information and plans. Whether your child has a 504, an IEP, or neither yet, you must have a binder to keep it all organized. I haven’t(and probably will not, because #unorganizedtoafault) written about this but here is an article by Amanda Morin at Understood.org I find very helpful.
  • Do one thing that relaxes or rejuvenates you. Parents, caregivers…I have not said this enough. These can be long and grueling hours. Please, take time after to relax or rejuvenate your soul. Have a nap, enjoy that special coffee. Do not allow yourself to burnout fighting for your child’s rights because you are the NUMBER ONE advocate for your babies.

My sweet friends, this is a good fight you are fighting to provide for your children. Do not forget along the way to provide and care for yourself as well. You need it. 

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