The divorce process is difficult for any family with children. When children with learning and developmental disabilities are involved in the process, the additional stressors associated with the divorce proceedings may affect them in diverse ways.
In many cases, divorce can be a particularly disorienting and distressing experience for a child who lacks the emotional maturity to mentally distance themselves from the conflict.
Here are some things that parents can do to help their children with special needs to cope with the psychological impact of divorce.
Engage a therapist who specializes in helping children with your child’s medical condition.
Although you might endeavor to manage the problem yourself and find ways to help your child to cope, children with learning and developmental disabilities may also require specialist treatment that a professional therapist is best placed provide. Emotional regulation is something that your child might be struggling with as it is.
This means that despite your best intentions, you may not understand the condition sufficiently well from a medical point of view to adequately address the additional stress placed on a child of divorce.
It is perfectly fine to admit that you do not know everything about your child’s condition and to seek the help of a professional therapist.
The court will not infer from the mere fact that you hired a therapist that you are a parent who cannot manage their child and/or you are not fit to be a parent.
The family court prioritizes the interests of the child above all else and insofar as this is meant to help your child to cope, the court will not frown upon weekly trips to the therapist.
Related Article: The Effect of Divorce on Children – An Age-By-Age Guide
Work with your spouse to ensure structure and stability in your child’s life.
While changes are inevitable during a divorce, sudden changes can be exceptionally disorienting for children who depend on routine, familiarity and repetition to ensure stability in their lives.
If the parties are planning to live separately post-divorce, the child must be given time to get used to the new surroundings and not seeing one parent around as much as before.
Your child will most certainly become overwhelmed if they are faced with too many drastic changes at the same time, so it is advisable for you and your spouse to jointly consult a therapist on how to go about transitioning into your post-divorce life in a way that ensures as much structure and stability as possible.
Related Article: Co-parenting After Divorce in Singapore: An In-Depth Look
Be alert as to the type of emotions you project to your child during the divorce process.
Some children are hypersensitive to their surroundings and can detect even the most minute changes in your mood. Parents have to be alert as to the kind of emotions they project to their child because these emotions will influence their child’s emotions.
The more overt you are, the greater the impact on the atmosphere of the child’s living environment – and it is not healthy for any child to live in an environment that feels like a war zone.
Related Article: How Can My Child’s Voice Be Heard in Access & Custody Disputes?
Notwithstanding how you feel about your spouse, be as liberal with the access arrangements as possible.
Most children of divorce eventually fall into a routine when it comes to access. They know that at a certain time on certain days of the week, they will get to spend time with the other parent who does not have primary care and control.
Children with learning and developmental disabilities may not have the same understanding of time and they may not comprehend how their time is being managed by a court order either.
If a child does not understand that the court order is the thing standing between them and the other parent because at such and such time of the week they are supposed to be with you, being unable to see the other parent when they want to is confusing. It is agony.
If you and your spouse know that your child is going to have a hard time processing the interference of a court order in his/or her life, it is advisable to work out a flexible and liberal access arrangement regarding your child so that your child does not get the impression that they are being blocked from seeing the other parent.
From our experience, when you allow your relationship with your spouse to deteriorate to the point that you insist on getting a court order, you are not as likely to let the child see your spouse on your time because that is what you are entitled to.
With liberal access arrangements that you negotiate on your own, both parents can be present for things like birthday celebrations because neither is asserting that this particular day is ‘my time’.