For parents of a special needs child, divorce presents unique challenges

For most couples, making the decision to divorce is not an easy one. When children are involved, the process becomes even more emotional and complex. In cases where divorcing individuals are parents to a child with special needs, extra care must be taken when attempting to separate two previously intertwined lives.

For couples with children who divorce or split, there is no clean break. As parents, these individuals are forever bonded together and when a child with special needs is involved, there are a number of additional factors that must be considered, planned for and decided upon.

There is no doubt that, at times, children can put a strain on a marriage. When a couple welcomes a child into their family; much of the time, money and energy previously spent on one another is devoted to the child. This alone can be a major source of marital strain and stress. When a child has a physical or mental disability, the stresses associated with raising a child are magnified.

Regardless of why a couple ultimately decides to file for divorce, it's crucial to never show or voice blame or resent a special needs child. Children with special needs are often hyper sensitive to a parent's moods and may in turn become more withdrawn and depressed if a parent shows signs of his or her own anger, sadness and despair in the wake of a divorce. Therefore, while it may not be easy, parents would be wise to put up a brave front for a child's sake and turn to family, friends and therapists for comfort in a child's absence.

For any individual in an unhappy marriage, a divorce may also bring a sense of freedom. While ending this type of marriage can certainly be liberating, divorcing parents would be wise to ensure a child's emotional and physical needs continue to be met. Additionally, children with special needs often struggle with change. It's important, therefore, for parents to attempt to maintain a child's routines and introduce changes in a child's life and routines slowly.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Divorce and the Child With Special Needs," Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D, Feb. 3, 2014

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