Sunday, May 19, 2024

Episode #94: Finding Calm in the Chaos: Self-Care for Special Needs Parents

Is Self-Care Selfish? Why Putting Yourself First Makes You a Better Parent. For parents raising children with special needs, a picture-perfect life can feel far out of reach. In this episode, we talk about breaking free from that cycle and ...
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Is Self-Care Selfish? Why Putting Yourself First Makes You a Better Parent.

Show Notes:

Feeling Overwhelmed? Self-Care for Special Needs Parents

Struggling to find moments of calm amidst the chaos? This interview with self-compassion coach Robyn Vasquez-Gutierrez provides practical strategies of self-care for special needs parents. Discover how breathwork exercises and mindfulness techniques can help manage stress and anxiety. Learn the importance of building a support network and overcoming feelings of isolation.

You’ll also find:

  • Simple self-care practices that fit into your busy schedule
  • Tips for combating parental burnout
  • How self-compassion can revolutionize your parenting journey
  • Free resources to get you started on your self-care for special needs parents journey

Don’t wait!  Listen to this interview and discover how prioritizing your well-being can make you a happier and more effective parent.

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Music Used:

“LazyDay” by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.



Robyn Vasquez-Gutierrez is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Self-Compassion Coach, specializing in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Her extensive background encompasses providing ABA services, supervision, caregiver engagement, and mentorship. In addition to her work in the field, Robyn has held various leadership roles, including positions at an insurance company.

She dedicates any available time to deepening her knowledge of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).


Episode #94: Finding Calm in the Chaos: Self-Care for Special Needs Parents

Is Self-Care Selfish? Why Putting Yourself First Makes You a Better Parent.

(Recorded April 2, 2024)

Full Transcript of Interview:

Tonya: Robyn, welcome to Water Prairie.

Robyn: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here today.

This is, this is interesting cause you’re gonna be bringing a topic that we haven’t talked about before. We have talked about self-care before. We’ve talked about just how important it is, but we haven’t necessarily given a lot of tools and tips to help solve the problem, and this is where I’m excited.

The, um, The Water Prairie Chronicles, we focus mainly on trying to encourage and support parents, especially these children. So, parents who have children with disabilities or, um, developmental or intellectual disabilities, different types of issues that they’re facing. Sometimes maybe it’s just really emotionally intense kids, but, um, but a lot of our kids feel pressure that they have to pretend that everything’s okay all the time.

And that’s why I thought this might be a fun topic for us to really get into. Can you share why it’s important for parents of special needs children to acknowledge and accept the challenges that they face instead of pretending that everything’s just fine?

Yeah. Yeah. Well, I think, I think that’s a beautiful question and a million-dollar question.

And I never want to assume that I understand these parents reality. I am a parent myself, but my son is neurotypical. And I just think I’ve worked in the special needs population for most of my career. So, I actually worked as a board-certified behavior analyst with mostly with the autistic community. I worked and supported other children that had different developmental disorders and needs and special needs.

And with that, I supported the family. So, I really saw firsthand in their home, how they do exactly what you’re talking about. They, there’s almost like this mask that we put on that they put on, I should say, that’s like, everything’s fine. This is my life. These are the cards I was dealt. So, I just have to deal with it.

And I would say why it’s so important to lean into the reality or to be honest and learn to ask for help is because. They’re going to burn out just the reality of their life is difficult. They’ve been dealt some difficult challenges and if they don’t have this community, this, um, you know, the village that they can call on and ask for help their, their levels of burnout are going to be so high.

And I know that, like, 1 of the 1st things that you ask a parent, um, you know, you ask them about their worries. They are worried about the here and now, but that 1st and foremost, they’re worried about the future, right? What is, what are their children do when they’re not here and. How do we get them, you know, how do we help them live a life that is meaningful to support themselves throughout that process?

So I think it’s just so important that they lean into the reality that they learned to ask for help and that they rely on their community and the people that can lean in and support them. So, they don’t feel so alone and isolated.

You know, I was at the store the other day and, um, my husband and I’ve been traveling for a couple of weeks and I’m at a, actually it was, it was a Target store.

So we’re in, you know, it’s nice and clean and all they had all the carriages lined up and I see a mother come in that has a little boy. using a cane and he looked like he was maybe five or six, could have even been as old as seven. And, um, and he was not a happy guy. He’s, um, he’s bad-mouthing his mom.

He’s just, I mean, the language that, that came out of this child was just very, very shocking for me to hear. Um, and so she’s trying to get the cart out that he could sit in the, they had a couple of them for, for older kids to be able to sit. And. Other customers had been putting their carts in front of it.

So it took her a moment to kind of get them moved the whole time. He is just belligerent, the whole, whole thing that he’s saying to her and all. And so she finally pulls the cart out by now he’s laying on the ground. I can’t even repeat what he was saying. Cause it’s not language that I even use, but she’s saying, you know, well, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll buy you some candy. I’ll buy you a toy. He’s like, I don’t want to candy. I don’t want to,

I just want to go home. And, um, and she’s like, you know, I’m sorry, I can’t, I can’t control that. People don’t know how to put their carts back. And so she finally gets the cart out and she’s looking at me and I have a child who’s visually impaired.

And at, at his age, she refused to use a cane. And I thought, you know, well, it, it probably can’t hurt. Let’s see if I can, can interact with him so she can get the cart out. And of course, then he just turns on me. He does not want anyone. He just wants to go home. So, long story short, he got what he wanted. He got to go home because she was just so exhausted.

She couldn’t even pick him up off the ground to get him into the cart. And so, so they left. And as she walked by me, I told her she was, she was, she was doing a good job. Just, just, just to hold on things were going to get better. Um, and she, she just whispered a quick, a quick thank you as she went by, but I couldn’t help thinking about this interview coming up and thinking, you know, We, she, she, she was beyond saying everything’s fine.

It was obvious that things were not fine, but she had gone through the bribery thing, she had gone through, you know, all the things that we, as parents know that we’re not supposed to do, but you could tell she was, she was at her end and she probably just needed two things. And they were on the way home from something and it was just going to be more to go back out again.

But, um, but I thought, you know, this, this poor mom is the only way I can think of it. You know, a lot of us have been in that situation where we’ve had the meltdown, we’ve had everything else. And to me, the punishment was, we’re just going home. So, in her case, the punishment for herself was, but he got what he wanted.

So she really was in a no-win situation there and totally exhausted by the look on her face. So. You know, that, that pressure to conform to the normal parenting standards, which would be to discipline him to, to take him out to the car and talk to him or whatever your form of discipline may be. I’m not going to pass judgment on anybody there.

Um, I, I don’t know that that was, I don’t, I don’t think she even felt like that was even worth it, but she did go through those normal ones of the bribery or trying to convince him to do things. But I think that makes. It feel even more isolated because she’s in a situation where she really couldn’t in, in her mind, at least it looked like she didn’t know what else she could do other than just to give in at this point, um, You know, it’s like, how does that, that pressure to be that normal parent, like whether it’s to reprimand them or like when he’s laying on the ground, there were other things that are leading to him being on the ground.

And from what I could observe, he had no vision at all. So, her parenting of him is going to be a little bit different just because of his physical needs with that. We have, you, you mentioned, um, kids that are on the spectrum.

There’s going to be times where they are so overstimulated that they’re going to be on the ground.

And it’s not because they’re having a tantrum. It’s because they’ve reached the point of where they cannot take any other sensory input and they’re just trying to get away from it. So, our parents, they’re not going to be doing that quote, normal reaction that other parents do. How does that lead to that isolation that they’re experiencing?

Oh, my gosh. I mean, how could it not? And I thank you for sharing that story. And I just think about that mom and she must honestly be thinking about you still because I assume too that these parents when they go out in the community and this is happening, they’re like, not again, right? Like, I’m also being judged now for how this looks and how I parent and how I present.

Where these people don’t understand, they don’t know what it’s like to live in my shoes. And yeah, I just needed two things. And now my whole world, you know, now my whole night, you know,

who knows what it was.

Yeah, yeah. It could have been something so simple. Um, and yeah, so they, they, they take on this judgment or perceived judgment that’s happening.

So it’s just so beautiful when more and more people like us can reach out in the community in real-time and kind of offer some support, even if it’s not accepted. Um, I think that goes a long way. So. That’s super beautiful. And so remind me of the question. I, I kind of segwayed from that.

Well, just, just how that those situations, how does that contribute to how isolated they might feel?

I mean, yeah, like I said, I think it, there’s no way it couldn’t. I think the other thing that comes to mind when I hear you talk about this is. Parents in that situation are managing the behaviors of their children while at the same time trying to manage their own reaction, right? This kind of behavior can really trigger something inside of us, whether it’s a childhood wound of our own, because we weren’t allowed to act that way, or we weren’t allowed to have emotions in that way.

So it creates this trigger for us. And then people are looking and all of the things. So, that also Contributes to feeling isolated, feeling alone because they’re like, no one else gets this. No one else understands. So, I’m just going to go back to my bubble, back to my world where I can kind of shut it off and not have to let the world in and see what’s happening.

I think sometimes too, um, we may have that feeling of guilt when we’re in that situation. Um, definitely you feel like you’re being judged by everybody around you. It’s, you know, it’s, and even as I was interacting with her, I was watching the other quote, well meaning customers who were around us who were walking away, they, they, a few of them didn’t even get a cart during that time because they didn’t want to deal with.

Being there. And I think some of it might not have been a judgment side, but I could see how that could come across to this mom and probably led to her leaving instead of trying to just kind of put herself in a bubble with him for a moment and figure out what to do for him and ignore everybody around her, because I think she could have actually salvaged that trip and gotten what she needed if she could have blocked out all the rest of us that were around her.

Um, and some of the people, what I was thinking is, so, so she’s responding to all their looks and their stares and they’re almost shunning as they walk away from her. But I think the people that were observing it were just as frustrated because they didn’t know what to do and may not have known. They may have had compassion.

They may not have. And of course, if they watch me try to interact, they were going to go even further because it did not work, but, but at the same time, you know, it’s like mom to mom, if I had been her, I don’t know what I would have done either. I would have also put up that shield saying, you know, no, I’m, I’m fine.

I’ve got this, you know, um, but it would help if we could actually let another mom help us or let, right. Okay. Another customer helped us, you know, maybe grandma’s had a grandchild that she’s been through with this, but she didn’t know how to. Intrude on that.

Well, it reminds me of the conversation we were having that sometimes we don’t know that we need help until we’re too far past the point of needing help.

And so this mom in that situation, she probably could have used help, but because it was already an escalated situation, maybe she wouldn’t even know how to respond to that if someone asked, because at the, at the core of it all, it comes down to communication, you know, us on the outside of the circle, how can we communicate and ask these families, you know, What do, what do you need?

How could I be supportive to you? And how can the family, the parents with special needs, um, children with medically fragile children, how can they respond to that? Well, they can do that better if they’re, if they actually evaluate that question from a less escalated place. So, when things are kind of status quo, when things are a little bit calmer.

Maybe that’s a great way to kind of think about like your values. What’s important to you. How do you want to ask for help? How do you want to actually accept help? Cause asking for help and accepting help are two very different things.


Oh yeah. I think that that was kind of the perfect storm because it was already escalated.

And like you said, those people who might’ve had a lot of compassion, perhaps. You know, perception is everything. So, perhaps they’re like, well, I don’t want to interfere. I just, it’s better if I step back. And in that moment, maybe it was because, you know, the child’s response to you, but we don’t know until we ask.

And we we’ve talked about, there’s, it’s probably been about a year now since we had the interviews, but we’ve had a few where we talked about how, when you have a newly diagnosed infant who’s you’re bringing home. How can the family and friends support that, that new mom? And, and I think, you know, a lot of times we think about that where, you know, like not, not just bringing them a meal, but maybe cleaning up a dish or something and supporting them there.

But we’ve never really talked about how do you support somebody after that point? And this is a case where. We do need to continue supporting each other as, I mean, even if your child isn’t diagnosed with a special needs, you still, as a parent can understand those bad days, we all, we all have days where stress just gets away and, and it’s, as our kids are growing, as they’re learning independence, they start pushing back a little bit.

And so we have different situations where we. We can still relate to how this mom might have felt and if this mom is listening, I don’t know who you are, but I, I hope you’re getting encouragement from this and not feeling like, like we’re just criticizing cause we’re not, we understand where you were that day.

You want to help you. Um, yeah, we want, we want to help. And I want to help those that are listening that might be in Target one day seeing somebody else having a hard time or in the grocery store, wherever you might be, um, interfering isn’t always the way, but sometimes maybe just moving things out of the way so mom can take care of it or, you know. something. It’s, um,

yeah, reading the room.

Yeah. Yeah. Let them have the space for a while. Um, but I, but I want our parents no matter who they are to feel like they can be in society, they can be out doing things. And it’s hard. Sometimes the amount of work that it took to get out the door, especially our medically fragile kids, there’s so much equipment they have to pack together.

They have to plan to make sure feeding schedules are in place. You know, all the, what ifs that might happen while they’re out just for a simple trip to the grocery store to, to go pick, pick up a tube of toothpaste because they ran out, you know, it’s not easy to do, but they need to be, be free enough to do this.

So, um, so switching from that situation, um, I wanted to think a little bit about still thinking about, about these parents here, the, um, They have all the stress. We’ve kind of described that. How can they find that healthy balance between caring for that high-needs child and taking care of themselves?

Cause that seems impossible. I think a lot of times, and you’re going to sacrifice yourself over your child every day. So, do you have any tips on how they could kind of. Make that transition to make sure that they are caring for themselves?

Yeah, I think so. And again, I never want to miss the mark and, um, what I’ll say, you know, I think you find what works for you and figure out like how to incorporate, like what feels good in a way that contributes to your wellbeing over time.

And so I think the first thing that comes to mind for me, and no matter who I’m talking to is identify your values, like first and foremost, like, what is the most important to you? Who and what is the most important to you? And. I’m sure it’s your children, right? Are going to be number one. Um, but I would say, don’t forget yourself in that process.

So are you important to you? Are you important? Because going back to that thought that most parents have of like, what’s going to happen when I’m not here? Well, we want you to be here for as long as you can be. We want you to be emotionally available, accessible. All of the things that you need to be in order to show up for who and what is most important to you.

So identifying those values, I think the second thing that comes to mind is we’ll be here about self-care. I mean, it’s such a buzzword right now. Um, everyone’s talking about self-care and the media is selling us self-care in the term, in the form of, um, you know, external things, massages. Facials, getting our nails done, getting our hair done, um, getting our makeup done, buying clothes, like whatever it is.

And I’m not saying that those things aren’t self-care, but those would not be where I would recommend you get started. Right. Those are external things. So, I think, um, some ways that these parents can really start to balance the, the balance between really showing up for their children and being there while also taking care of themselves is building in small, actionable steps daily.

Like, um, I’m actually a breathwork physician. Facilitator and training. So, our breath, for example, is something that I always recommend to people. Um, one, it’s free. We can always breathe. It’s free. It’s accessible to us. Um, but there’s really a beautiful benefit of. Intentionally breathing that it has on our nervous system.

And so that is self-care because you are literally taking care of yourself today in order to show up better tomorrow and the day after that, and the day after that, and so on and so forth. So, you get to think about your future in that way, instead of. Um, maybe some of the worry that’s coming up, I’m not saying the worry is going to go away.

That might still be there, but we’re going to try to balance it a little bit more. And your breath can do that. You can really kind of drop in and just even listen to like, what are my thoughts telling me? Because these parents are, um, Living on autopilot, you know, they have to, they have to make the next decision, the next choice they have therapies and equipment and deductibles and doctors and all of the things like they have a lot to get done in the 24 hours that exists in a given day, but if they can slow down and just breathe for 10 seconds, and then that 10 seconds turns into a minute and then five minutes, you know, little sips.

Of breath each day can really have a beautiful impact. So, I think start there, start small. And when you evaluate your values, who and what’s important to you, um, you can start to build in other things that really feel good to you. Maybe it’s some movement, maybe it’s getting outside for a five minute walk, tagging someone else in and saying, I’m taking five minutes.

I’m taking 10 minutes to myself because I deserve that. And my worth. My worthiness is not dependent on the things that I accomplished this day or the behaviors that my child did or didn’t engage in today. I am worthy of this because I exist.

That’s very good advice. Um, I, I, I like that cause I was going to ask you how to, how to incorporate that in. So, you’ve already, already jumped, jumped ahead of me on that one. The um, So you’re a self-compassion coach.


Tell me exactly what that means.

Yeah. It’s a, it’s a confusing, confusing word because

I haven’t seen it before.

Yeah. Well, and I think self-love, self-compassion, all of those things kind of overlap. And I would say to me, compassion is. Treating yourself like you would treat your best friend, being your own best friend, being your biggest cheerleader. And I think, um, why compassion and self-love and self-trust are so important to me is because I, I do know firsthand the impacts of anxiety and how the voice of our inner critic can really, um, Um, be detrimental to our mental wellbeing, to our emotional wellbeing, to our mental health.

And so when we can start to foster and develop this self-compassion and learn to treat ourselves, like we treat other people, like we treat our friends, um, when we can learn to identify like, okay, the voice of my inner critic is here. What, what is she trying to teach me? Like, what is the lesson versus taking that as truth?

Then we start to transform. So, to me, I just want. Um, you know, I primarily support women, um, caregivers. I really want women to learn to love themselves. And I think as moms, especially everyone wants a piece of us. And so we put ourselves on the back burner because I mean, especially you, you have children in general, right?

Especially they’re young, they’re going to different things. And then you add on. This layer of having special needs being, you know, having a child that’s medically fragile, like, of course, you’re the voice of your inner critic. That voice of that internal dialogue is going to tell you you’re selfish. Like what are you doing?

Trying to even prioritize yourself. But when you can start to notice that, observe it and you get to change it, you get to change that voice. You get to learn the lesson. And you get to lean into that compassion and you can start to surround yourself with people who are like minded in that way too, which again, fosters and develops that sense of compassion.

Nice. I appreciate you explaining that. It’s, it’s a phrase I had not heard as far as self-compassion coach, but having you explain that, I think, Every, every mom, especially should be working with someone just cause I, cause, cause like you say, it’s really, it’s really hard to not put yourself in the back burner to take care of.

Cause we’re in that caregiving role. That’s, that’s, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s where we are at this stage of life. And many of us will go from caregivers for our children and our high-needs children to caregivers for our parents one day. And so there may not even be a gap in between. It may just be a change of who we’re caring for.

Yeah. Excuse me. We have others who are listening who are, um, adult siblings of someone that they’re still caring for because their parents are no longer able to care for them. So, we have a lot of listeners that are in that, that, that, that role, whether they’re a parent or not. And, um, so I think, I think that’s really important.

So, so we have self-compassion coach and you also work with acceptance and commitment therapy. So, that’s what you’re explaining with what you’re doing.


Am I connecting this correct?

Yeah. You’ve got it.

And then there’s breath work as part of it. All right. So, we’re, we’re, we’re, we’re getting there. When I, when I read your bio, it’s like, there’s so many pieces here. I wanted to make sure that I understood all of it. Yeah.

Well, and I think it’s because, you know, I, by trade, I’m a board-certified behavior analyst, BCBA. I worked with the autistic community, like I talked about. And then under, um, Being a BCBA, there’s this framework acceptance and commitment therapy.

And when I started learning about that, I was like, I need to do this. I need to transition because I have been the woman for most of my life. I’d say most of my adult life anyway, that did not show myself a lot of compassion or empathy, though. I am a very empathetic person. I’m very compassionate, but I was giving all of my energy to everyone else.

Before myself. So, I’m just really passionate about helping, um, people learn to prioritize themselves and not feel guilty about that, that it’s actually okay. And it helps you show up better and stronger for the people that you love.

So I’m sure in your practice, you’ve run across people that might be resistant or unfamiliar with what you’re doing. How do you help a parent understand the value? Because, because we have a lifetime. of being taught to put others first for me as, as, as a Christian, that’s, that’s where my mindset is. I want to help others, but I do find that the downside is that I don’t always take care of myself in the process and I’m learning.

It’s taken a long time to get there, but I’m learning. So, how do we kind of break that where you see that it’s not, it’s not wrong to also think of yourself. It’s not selfish whenever you think of yourself. I mean, it could be if, if you take it to an extreme, you’re not caring.

Yeah. I mean, first of all, I want to just acknowledge that it’s a lifelong journey, I think for everyone.

So whether you are working with a coach or a therapist or reading self-help books or. Professional development, like whatever it is that you’re doing, I think that’s a lifelong process and whatever chapter you’re in right now just leads you to the next chapter. So, we get to continue to learn and evolve and grow.

Um, but in terms of like, how to not feel like it’s selfish, I think that’s where acceptance and commitment therapy comes in because that’s our mind. That’s our mindset that is very fixed. That has, you know, it’s kind of fused, um, for lack of a better word, that’s a, A word in acceptance and commitment therapy is like, we’re hooked with these rules or these thoughts because our whole life we’ve been told, don’t be selfish.

Put others first. We’ve been told not to have emotion. Suck it up. Buttercup. Be a big girl. Like all of these things, right? We’ve been told our whole life, um, have really. Let us to believe that those are actually true and factual. So, when we, when we can step back and we can observe, what are the thoughts that we’re even having, which we can do through acceptance and commitment therapy, which we can do through breath work, then we get to change that narrative.

We get to kind of change that talk track, but again, just acknowledge. That these thoughts are here. So, if someone out there is listening, they’re like, well, that sounds great, Robin, but I have so many things to do. I, there’s no way I can put myself first. Maybe just observe that you’re having that thought, observe it without judgment.

Ask yourself, is it true? Is that a true thought? Maybe it is a true thought. Maybe it’s not. But if it’s, um, a true thought, is it helpful? So that’s kind of the next thing I would ask myself. Is this a helpful thought? Whether you answer those questions with a yes or no, you’re going to be able to identify like what intuitively feels right for the next step.

And, um, you know, I think going back to what I mentioned in terms of, uh, Yeah. Pairing some things. One thing that I talk about a lot with my clients is habit stacking because we’re all busy. Like if we could all have more time, that would be great. Um, but we all have this 24 hours. I don’t believe it’s created equal, especially for our listeners listening today.

Right. They have all of these. Things on their plate, however, the time duration is not going to change. So, you just get to ask yourself, what is the most important for in this next 24-hour period, taking it small, knowing that beyond that there’s some bigger issues and challenges and future me will know how to manage that.

But in this 24 hours, how can I build in some things that feel good? How can I slow down and just be aware of my breath? Well, maybe when I’m doing the dishes, I can just notice. the soap on my hands. I can notice the way that the bubbles feel. I can breathe while I’m doing that. I can notice the air. Is it cool?

Is it warm? These things that bring us back into the present moment can help eliminate some of that guilt because we’re not taking away from the future us, we are just contributing to future us by slowing down, pouring into ourselves so that we can live in the present moment because we live in the past or the future.

You mentioned, um, just feeling the water on your hands when, uh, just triggered a memory for me when my kids were young and I was trying to teach them. Well, I say I, we, because my husband and I had to do this together, trying to teach them how to self-soothe without relying on me going in there all the time.

And my daughter at the time, her nervous system was just off the charts. Um, we were doing brushing techniques and everything with her. And so it was really hard to let her go. find on our own, how to, how to calm herself. And so it go into the kitchen and I’ve shared this before and other, other interviews, I would wash dishes, you know.

We may have had a dishwasher, but it didn’t matter. Just that warm, the suds it was calming for me to have that exposure. Um, the noise of the water running would help calm what I was hearing in the other room, excuse me. And I could give it 10, 15 minutes before I went in again to kind of calm myself. And then I was more relaxed when I went in because of it all.

So, um, so maybe I was finding ways to, to, to, to, to treat myself without knowing it during that time.

I love that. Yeah. I love that. And that gave me chills just hearing you say that you did that. And it reminded me of an experience where, um, when I worked as a BCBA and I was going into these homes and I was working with the families, sometimes it was really challenging for these families to hear their children cry, right?

They, they wanted to do all of the things like, um, Let me use some bribery or give you whatever you want. Or like, how do I just make it stop versus sitting in it? And so I unbeknownst to me back then when I was, um, not, I didn’t know as much about acceptance and commitment therapy, but some of my interventions for parents were the same.

So I remember specifically asking a mom when her child ended up on the floor and some kind of aggressive types of behavior, I asked her to go to her room and brush her hair. And that was like a random thing that I just felt intuitively. Like I have to give her a task, but I also wanted her to just have something to do and honor herself at the time because she wasn’t able to sit and listen to it.

And so maybe. Maybe I was doing that too back then and didn’t know it.

Yeah, it’s, I hadn’t thought about that, but you’re, but you’re right. Cause it, cause just that stroking the, the, the repetition of it between washing the dishes, the brushing your hair is part of it, but it also is giving you that, that sensory input yourself.

Yeah. That’s, that’s a calming. Well, we’ll see. We, we, we stumbled, but, but we found something.

It all came full circle.

It did. Well, I did want to ask. I don’t know if you can do it or not, but can you, um, you mentioned some of the breathwork earlier. Can you give a short little demonstration of what, what you mean when you talk about breathwork?

You know, I can talk about it a little bit and we can talk about breath awareness, but breath work is, uh, is a whole experience and it can be an emotional or a physical and or a physical experience. So, um, there’s kind of a lot that goes into, like, an actual session. We, we. Find a playlist that feels good and supportive.

We set an intention. So, a lot of the women, a lot of the, um, I actually do have men. So, a lot of the people who are coming to me to breathe, um, you know, have intentions of like, I want to let go of what’s no longer serving me. I’m holding on to a lot of anxiety or, um, Um, yesterday I had someone who wanted to let go of the things that she couldn’t control.

So we always set an intention in this breathwork session and then have this playlist that kind of is curated to that. And then there’s some talking and some affirmations and then of course the breath itself. And so there’s various kinds of breath patterns that we could use in a breathwork session. But what I would say for the people who are listening out there, I mean, obviously if you’re driving, don’t close your eyes right now, but if you’re doing that, um, Yeah, you’re doing the washing the dishes or folding the laundry or doing these kind of mundane tasks.

I would encourage you to maybe pop some music in your ear or do it silently. Like just listen to what feels good to you, close your eyes, and just bring your awareness to your breath. And so when we do that, I’ll demo that. So, I’m going to close my eyes. I’m going to take a nice, big, deep breath in. It doesn’t even have to be, you just.

Listen to what your body wants. My body is calling for a deep breath right now. Oh, I feel so good just circulating in my body and I’m going to exhale Let it go and as I do that I’m noticing the rise of my chest the fall of my abdomen Um, I can bring my awareness to this tiny space between my nostril That we never notice But, you know, how does this air feel?

It’s cool. It’s warm. You know, when I close my eyes, I personally am someone who visualizes. So, I like to see a lot of light surrounding me and that just feels really good. It feels like I’m in connection with my energetic source and that I’m on track. Um, so that’s, that’s what I would recommend doing to anyone who’s like, well, I don’t know about breath work, but we can breathe anytime for free.

If you’re really interested in breathwork sessions, there are. A million breathwork facilitators out there. I would always recommend finding someone who is a trauma-informed breathwork facilitator so that we can teach you how to take tiny sips because we are going to regulate the nervous system. And sometimes that’s hard to do, you know, if you’ve never done breathwork before, just fully surrender.

Like that. So, we do it, you know, one step at a time, one breath, work session at a time. Um, and that is an offering that I’m offering right now too. It’s free. Hope you find me through, uh, through June of this year. It’s a complimentary service. Um, so if you’re curious. Let’s, let’s breathe together.

Cool. I like that. All right. Well, this season we’re going to kind of switch, switch gears here. So, this season I’m asking my guests to share some words of wisdom by completing different statements and listeners, if you’ve listened so far to season three, you’ve heard, heard some others do this, but, um, Robin, I’m going to start by reading out a statement that I’m going to have you repeat the statement and then finish it with your own thoughts.

Does that make sense? Yep. Okay. All right. So, the first one I have is the biggest shift I’ve seen in parents of special needs children is when they realize,

Okay, so the biggest shift I’ve seen in special needs parents is when they realize. The power of community, the power of connection, when they lean into their support network and find people, find their village who can help support them on this journey.

I like that. Okay. So, the next one for parents feeling overwhelmed, the most important thing to remember about self-care is,

Okay, so for parents feeling overwhelmed, the most important thing they need to realize about self-care is. It doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. We can start really small.

You can start building in some self-care, some self-compassion in your day-to-day life by pausing, by noticing your feet beneath you, by taking a breath, by just breathing, and being present in the moment.

Nice. See, I thought you would say it’s not selfish. So, , you went above and beyond what I was expecting.

Yeah. It’s not selfish.

I like your answer better.

Well, and I, I like saying that self-care is not selfish and I know we hear that a lot. And so I feel like. Um, when I say it to my clients or I say it to anyone in my community, I get kind of a visceral reaction sometimes, like a little bit of a silent eye roll or something like, because it’s, “Okay. That’s cliche, but how Robin?” And so I like that. I like saying it because it’s not selfish, but I want to be able to encourage you to take the steps so you can actually start to feel the benefits of self-care. And then you learn like, oh, it’s not selfish because I’m actually showing up as a better parent. I’m showing up as a better boss. I’m showing up as a better child, a better friend, because I’m giving to myself. Right. I also think we say we can’t pour from an empty cup and I know like, okay, those are words too, but that is so true. Right. If our cup is empty, like how in the world can we give to our children?

Yeah. All right. So, you’re ready for the next one?


All right. So, a practice that has helped me manage stress and find moments of peace is.

Okay. So, a practice that has helped me manage stress and find moments of peace is breathwork. Finding the power of the pause. Even if it’s not, um, slowing down and intentionally breathing. Can I pause and can I notice what’s coming up for me? What thoughts am I having? What am I doing with my body? How am I engaging with the world around me?

As you’re saying that, I was thinking how many times we hold our breath thinking that we’re breathing.


And I think a lot of our parents, if, if you think about it, if just having that pause in that moment, if just having listened to this and thinking about their breathing, how many times do they hold their breath and they’re not, they’re not breathing. They’re just holding on, but they’re physically holding as well. During that time. Right.

And they’re, they’re clenching their jaw, like their whole face is, um, you know, there’s a lot of tension in that. And so when you pause and you breathe, not only does it feel good in your body, you can let go of that tension.

You can notice like I’m holding so much around the crown of my head, around my cheeks, around my jaw, or perhaps in my heart, I have a lot of heaviness. So, how, when I breathe, can I relieve some of that?

Well, the whole world can look different just with one breath. It’s just like you said, if you can just let go of that tension, you might, you might be able to think clear and see that maybe looking up and seeing back to our Excuse me.

Back to our example at the shopping, you know, look up and see the grandma that actually has a pleasant look on her face and she’s not judging you just, just that much to get there. All right. So, speaking of that, the last one that I had for you is the best way for parents of special needs children to overcome feelings of isolation is to.

Okay, I’m going to try to get that right. The best way for parents of children with special needs to overcome feelings of isolation is to. Ask for and accept help.


So it goes back to that, right? Building community.

Stop right there.

Okay. Perfect. Perfect. I love it.

I couldn’t have asked for a better answer. Excuse me. There was something I was going to say, Oh, uh, the, um, the whole time we’ve been talking about this since you first introduced what you do, I keep picturing someone laying down with, um, cucumber on their eyes.

Yeah. It’s like, I’ve always, I’ve always thought, well, self-care is not for me because that’s what I picture. Yeah. It’s just. I’m just kind of a down-to-earth person.

Well, and I like that you bring that up too, because, you know, I think maybe everyone has this definition of self-care that looks similar to that, or they think it’s the massage.

And I talked to people and they’re like, well, I don’t even like massage. And it’s like, okay, well, that’s not the self-care for you, but there’s other ways to care for your nervous system, to care for your mood. And it can be really simple. So, we let comparison culture get in the way. Social media tells us what self-care should look like.

But when you breathe and I know I’m harping on this breath thing, but it’s powerful, it’s transformed my life. Um, but when you breathe, you really tap into your intuition and you can identify like what actually feels good. And your time is so limited for those that are listening. Like your time is so. You don’t want to go get a massage for 60 minutes if you’re like, I don’t even enjoy that.

Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t add that on. Spend those 60 minutes going for a walk, listening to a podcast, breathing, taking a drive. I don’t know. Whatever feels good. You deserve that.

So you have Robyn’s permission not to have to break the bank and go to a spa. You can now do this another way.

Yeah, yeah, and I, I like sharing that because I think for so long, when I, when I think about when I first started my journey towards healing, I was, um, I was very, I don’t know what the word is.

I didn’t hesitate to spend a lot of money trying to fix the problem, right? I tried to throw a lot of money at, like, something’s wrong with me. I was having a lot of anxiety, like, let me do the things that people say are going to help. Well, when I was doing that, Didn’t benefit me in any way because I hadn’t done the internal work.

I hadn’t regulated my nervous system. I hadn’t noticed my thoughts. So, it was like putting a Band-Aid on the situation and that Band-Aid eventually fell off and the problem was still there. So, I like sharing that because. You can find ways to build this in that don’t cost you a thing.

So you mentioned through June that you have, uh, a session that they can do.


Yeah. Okay. What else do you like to tell it? Tell us what, what you offer, how they can get in touch with you, your coaching sessions, things like that, whatever, however you want to share with us. I want my listeners to hear how to get in touch with you.

Okay, absolutely. Well, I would say the 1st thing that I would love to extend an invite to anyone who is listening and feels like this resonates, or I want to be part of that community is an invitation to join myself.

Love club. This is a free community. I host it on the last Thursday of every month at 12 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. So, obviously we’ve got to take some time zone conversions into account, but if that works for you, it’s a way to join this free community with like-minded women who are, you know, experiencing the, you know, They’re experiencing self-doubt.

They’re experiencing anxiety. They’re experiencing, um, what it doesn’t like, what it feels like when they don’t take care of themselves. So, we share tips, strategies. We do a little breathwork in there. It’s just this beautiful club. You can come without any pressure, any expectations. You don’t have to speak if you just want to hear people talk.

It’s just this beautiful. So. So, I love sharing that I want to get that to be a bigger community. So, anyone and everyone is welcome to that. If that interests you, you can find me on Instagram @coachrobyn_. That’s R O B Y N underscore. So, @coachrobyn_, um, you’ll see, it says I am a coach, a mindset and self-compassion coach.

And, um, from there, these breathwork sessions are available too. I offer 30-minute, 60-minute, and group sessions. Breathwork session experiences, and you can sign up for the, there’s a link in my bio. You can sign up for free for those breathwork sessions through June of this year. Um, in June, I graduate.

And so I’ll be transitioning what those services look like and what those offerings will be some more to come then. And then, um, the other thing that I’m really proud of is my signature program. So, this is a three-month, 12-week one-to-one session. Um, so if you’re looking for coaching with a self-compassion mindset coach, a woman who has experienced anxiety and some forms of depression, I’ve gone through a divorce.

I’ve gone through some difficult things and I’ve gotten back on the street. Um, if that resonates with you and you feel like I’d like to work with you, or at least have a conversation around what self-compassion can do for me, um, then my signature package, I, I have a program called nurture her and, um, that’s also an offering that we can chat about on Instagram.

I have a website, uh, Reflect and Refine is the name of my company. So, https://reflectandrefine.Net. So, you can find me. Um, you can say the word like “compassion” or “Water Prairie”, and we can continue the conversation offline.

Excellent. Excellent. Well, I hope that, that our listeners will, will check out what you’re doing on Instagram.

Um, I love the, the intro idea of just kind of touching base with your monthly, uh, uh, um, group just to, to kind of get a, get a touch of what you’re doing there and then ease in from there. The, um, I think it’s always nice whenever we can kind of check out with, with a, a low commitment level and kind of ease in, especially the parents that we’re talking about.

Cause as we say, their time is so limited, but, um, but that’ll give them a good, a good taste of what you have to offer. And then they could. Yeah. Follow up with your coaching time as well.

Absolutely. Super important that they find a good match for them. And so testing it out is a great way to go about that.

Well, thank you for sharing this with us. I’ve, I’ve learned a lot from it. Um, I’ve really enjoyed chatting with you and you’ve joined our expert panel as well. Is that correct? I believe I have you on my list for that.

Yeah, I have. I, um, we’ll need to chat about that. I’m excited.

So, listeners, you may, you may see and hear from Robyn more over the next season.

So, we, um, but I encourage you if you have specific questions about what we’ve talked about to send those to us and we will get the answer to you. So, if you, neat connection. Um, connect with Robyn directly. You can send an email to Water Prairie at info@waterprairie.Com and we’ll get that back to her as well.

Um, we want to make sure that you’re getting what you need as a parent and that we can support you as, as well as we can. So, um, so anyway, so, so Robyn, thank, thank you so much for, for being here today. And I’m looking forward to chatting with you more in the future too.

Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me. It’s been a, been a pleasure and an honor.

Tonya Wollum


Tonya Wollum is a disability advocate and host of the Water Prairie Chronicles podcast which connects special needs parents with resources to help them navigate parenting a child with a disability. She is the mother of 2 college-age children who have each grown up with a disability. That experience, along with a background in education, led her to create the Water Prairie Chronicles to help share what she has learned with parents of younger children to help them know how to advocate for their children.

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