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Just breathe: For parents of children with special needs

Just breathe: How a simple act can raise your self-awareness and effectiveness

by Sherianna Boyle

As a former school psychologist, I’ve been a part of hundreds of team meetings. But it wasn’t until I became the parent of a child in need of special education that I realized the value of three breaths.

Initially, the breaths were an attempt to relax as the anticipation of communication with my child could be nerve-racking. My background is a double-edged sword. It’s helpful to be familiar with the terms and procedures, but somehow, when it’s my child, everything I know gets squandered by my emotions.

Meeting with my child’s teacher triggers reactions within me. There are times I want to protect my child and advocate for her learning style, while other times I want to back away, withdraw or retreat in an attempt to process it all.

Then I discovered the value of three breaths.

I was in my car after a meeting when an overriding sadness overcame me. Was I feeling sorry for my child or myself?

Initially both, but by the third breath cycle (one inhale and one exhale) the sadness converted to surrender. Sitting in my car, closing my eyes, I surrendered to my breath, allowing it to float inside of me. Although my breath was much smaller, I felt its support as if a warm blanket enwrapped me.

By ignoring or fighting my breath, I had immobilized my feelings, which triggers thinking. Now, by feeling my sensations completely, I could release my attachment to the thoughts I had of seeing my situation as stressful or difficult.

In hindsight, if I were to return to a position of school psychologist, I would make it a point to begin and end every meeting with a deep breath.

Taking three breaths before and after a meeting helps me to support my child and her teachers by moving any judgments, fears, or concerns about the future.

By doing so, not only do I become more effective, I am no longer depriving myself of the power of my own emotions.

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