Divorce is tough for everyone who is affected by it, but this is a far more the case for special needs kids and their parents. Having talked in the first installment about the financial concerns that divorcing couples with special needs and disabled kids need to consider, we will be moving on to discuss the emotional concerns that may need to be addressed during the divorce.
Caring for a child with special needs is already a job that requires an enormous amount of patience and love. Consider then, if this task can take a lot out of a strong, intact family, how much more difficult it must be for a family going through a divorce. Which is why the parents of special needs kids will need to prioritize their child’s needs more than ever during the divorce, and work together to maintain stability.
Structure Is Critical
Continuity and structure are so important for all children, and in particular for special needs kids, therefore, creating a fixed custody schedule is critical. Standardized parenting schedules may not work well for children with disabilities and special needs because they rarely, if ever, take into account the unique needs of the child.
In some situations the frequent transitions and change can be very hard, as would be the case for a child with autism. In some instances, one parent can only find living accommodations further away from a hospital or medical center, which is not ideal for a child with seizures. Parents will need to work together to create a schedule that focuses on providing quality parenting time but also allows for the needs of the individual child to be met.
Family law attorneys can help by suggesting alternative parenting schedule options, or even alternative living arrangements, like “Bird’s Nest custody” where the child remains at a fixed address and the parents move in and out of the residence for the duration of their custody period. Be sure to discuss your family’s unique situation with your respective divorce attorneys so that you can all work together to create a structured schedule that will best suit your child’s needs.
Handle It Together
Every child is going to react differently to the news that their family is splitting up. For special needs and disabled children who may face greater emotional difficulties than most, this can be even harder. For this reason, it is critical that parents of special needs kids work together to talk to the child about the divorce in the way that will make it easiest for them to manage emotionally. This means taking into consideration the location, situation, time of day and any other factors that could influence how well that child copes with the news.
It can be very hard for people to admit that they need help, especially when the situation they are in could be considered by some to be “of their own making.” But when it comes to helping your special needs or disabled child through a tough family transition, it is important to put aside personal qualms and focus on what is best for the child.
Raising a child with special needs is usually a team effort that includes family members, doctors, therapists and school personnel. While the divorce may make this a difficult time for everyone, there is no better time to dig in and use every available resource. Talk openly to all of the people involved in your child’s care, and let them know what is happening so that they are prepared in the event of emotional outbursts or possible behavior changes from your child.
Join us next time as we wrap up this series by looking at the fundamental basics of divorce as it applies to parents of special needs kids, and what they will need to consider during the divorce process in order to best meet their child’s needs.