IEP meetings can be stressful, to say the least. When we asked our community how they keep their cool during IEP meetings, parents were quick to share just how emotional these encounters made them—to the point of crying during IEP meetings.
Many offered explanations about why they didn’t feel the need to avoid crying during these meetings. Others passed along reasons and ideas for holding the tears in.
Read on and, in the comments section, add your own thoughts about handling emotions around IEP meetings. (We’ve removed screen names from the following quotes as they appeared in our secure on-site community.)
Crying in IEP meetings Is OK!
“It’s not just a meeting. It’s a part of your life and your child’s life. Anything decided in that meeting affects your child, and of course we all get emotional when our children succeed. Sadly, they don’t always succeed right away and that’s emotional as well. But it’s OK to have feelings and to show them.”
“Crying provides a release of emotions and communicates feelings. This can also create empathy in the other people at the meeting. I think being emotional can help one to move on and be a bit more objective.”
“Never feel less about yourself for caring enough to show emotion about your loved ones.”
“I’ve been a special education teacher for 24 years. Whenever I see a parent become emotional at an IEP meeting, it lets me know that this child I work with in the classroom each day is truly loved for who he/she is, for both the strengths and the challenges. It lets me know that something needs to be touched on in more detail, or that I need to stop, reflect, and make sure that we as a team are addressing the issues that brought on that rush of emotions from a parent. Sometimes the tears are from joy, sometimes sadness, sometimes anger and frustration. I don’t care. I want to know what we all need to do in order to help and to do the very best that we can for your child, and to offer support for you as best we can.”
“An IEP meeting is our chance to tell them, because of research we have done, what accommodations we want for our child. It is not for us to just sit and shake our heads ‘yes’ and go along with whatever they do for most other children. Cry, scream, jump up and down, do whatever you need to do to let them know that you are in the fight.”
Ideas to Try to Curb Those Tears
“What about setting a time limit on yourself? Wear a watch, decide how much time you can devote to tears. Then, wipe your eyes and let everyone at the meeting know that you’re done crying and ready to move on.”
“I wonder if listening to something calming before the meeting and a little self-talk will help with the crying issue.”
“If you take the time when you are alone to reflect on all the things your child has struggled with, and accomplished, along with current struggles, you can give yourself time to allow yourself to cry. If you can release the emotions at times you allow, it will free up the other times when you don’t necessarily want to cry.”
“I would strongly suggest going into the meeting with an agenda that you have developed and provided to the team at least two days in advance, or one you receive from the school team at least two days prior to the meeting. Then go through the document and highlight key areas needing discussion. By prepping in advance, you will have something more objective in front of you to focus on. This should help alleviate the emotional aspects of the meeting.”
“It has helped me to talk in a support group about my child’s meetings, so that I can feel heard and validated by people who understand, because it won’t happen in the meetings at the school in most instances.”
“I cry in almost every IEP meeting. It drives me crazy, because it makes me feel like I’m losing control. So far, the only solution I’ve come up with is to bring my husband with me to the meetings. He always stays very calm and can often explain things to me in a way that makes me hear it and not just hear ‘your child is broken.’ He also has validated my feelings in the meeting, which really helps me feel better about crying.”
“Taking an advocate—whether a family member, friend or paid person—may help if they are more objective with the situation and can jump in if you start to feel upset.”
“Always know you have the right to ask for a five-minute break from the meeting to take a quick walk, etc., to collect yourself. Nothing wrong with that at all!”
Discover where to find support for you and your family, online and offline. And watch other parents weigh in on common tough topics related to parenting kids with learning and thinking differences.
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About the author
Lexi Walters Wright is the former Community Manager at Understood. As a writer and editor, she helps parents make more informed choices for their children and for themselves.