Tips on Handling Divorce with the Special Needs Child

While divorce can be hard on parents, children also can sense the tumultuous ups and downs associated with divorce. Children are vulnerable and special needs children are even more so. However, by giving special attention to their special needs and uniqueness, they too can cope and thrive.

Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D., a licensed psychologist and marriage and family therapist, gives some tips to help special needs children thrive. She says:

1. Don't blame your child for your divorce. It has been said that having a special needs child makes a couple more likely to divorce but recent research debates that idea. The stress of the child's needs isn't necessarily the problem rather; it may be that the couple didn't have the inner resources or supports needed to handle a crisis of that significance.

2. Children with special needs are often hyper-sensitive to their parents' moods. So if you start seeing more acting up, anxiety, or withdrawal, it may be that the parents need to be more mindful of the anger, hurt or grief and even relief they are broadcasting to their kids.

3. Keep everything stable at a time of uncertainty and instability. The child's needs do not change even though the parents' needs may be changing. Parents with a special needs child may want a break or may feel as though they've missed out on too much due to the toll of parenting. As a result, they may want more "me" time or they both may want to date. But just remember that the child still needs the care, attention, and resources he or she has always needed. Parents are smart to plan for that.

4. Carefully plan the transition to a new kind of family. Special needs kids generally have trouble with transitions so try to compensate for this by changing routines, caregiver responsibilities, and the living situation as gradual as possible.

5. With regards to #4, don't move into a new relationship too quickly. While it takes a child with special needs more time to adapt to a teacher, caregiver, or medical provider, the same is true for a new love. It's wise not to introduce your special needs child to a potential new partner until you know it will work out because break-ups, while hard on you, may even be harder for your child.

At Stange Law Firm, PC, we uphold the law of doing what is in the best interest of the child. If you are facing divorce and have a child with special needs, we can help. Contact us to schedule a consultation at 855-805-0595 or online.

Source: Divorce and the Child With Special Needs, By Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D., The Huffington Post