|Nemo on Pixabay|
Raising a child with special needs or a disability can strain a couple’s relationship for several reasons. Often a child will need medical treatment, various therapies, assistive technology and other devices which can substantially increase a family’s financial burden.
One or both parents may change their work schedules to provide additional care for their child and to attend medical and educational meetings. One partner may feel somewhat neglected if the other is totally focused on their child. If one parent gave up work to be the primary caretaker, he or she may regret losing out on a good career and resent the other partner who continues to work outside the home. All of these feelings are normal.
There are steps couples can take to maintain and foster a strong relationship. Marriages and partnerships need work from both parties to succeed and this is particularly relevant when a child with special or additional needs is involved. Here are some ideas that may help.
1. Discuss and define your roles.
Typically, one parent is the main caregiver and the person who deals with doctors and schools. The other parent may be the main earner. Don’t fall into these rolls by default.
|Jogdragoon on OpenClipArt.org|
Discuss what each of you will be responsible for and the things that you will share responsibility for. Write your decisions down so there won’t be any dispute later. Agree to revisit the issue again periodically. When you finish one discussion decide the date for your review and put it in your diaries.
2. Acknowledge the importance of your relationship
Your child is very important, but your relationship with each other must be seen as equally important. A healthy and strong relationship lets both parents provide better support for their child and for each other. You should not feel guilty for the time you spend working on your relationship.
3. Schedule in couple time
Everyone feels under pressure for time today and this pressure can increase when you have a child with special needs. Both parents need to schedule in time for themselves and time to do something as a couple. Set a goal of doing something every week. You might go to dinner, the cinema or just a walk together. Your child’s needs may influence what you can do, but any time spent as a couple will benefit you both.
4. Circle of support
Basically, you organise friends, neighbors and relatives who will help out by watching the kids, running errands, dropping off a meal., etc. A circle of support is particularly helpful if one parent is staying with a hospitalised child, or if one parent is hospitalised. How often you need extra support depends on your circumstances. Typically, friends and neighbors want to help but don’t know how. Being part of a circle of support lets them do something they want to do.
|Josephluis on OpenClipArt.org|
A lot of people feel awkward asking for help. Talk to a close friend or family member and ask them to help set up the support circle. There are websites that let you set up and manage a circle of support for free including Lotsa Helping Hands and Care Flash.
You can read more about Circles of Support here.
5. Communication is key
In addition to making time for each other, you must also work to make sure your partner knows how you are feeling. Parenting a child with special needs is hard and you need to rely on each other for emotional support.
Like all parents, you may disagree on particular issues relating to your child. Listen to the other person’s point of view without being critical or judgmental. Respect each other’s opinions.
If you feel that your relationship is strained, consider going to a therapist.
Please share any tips you have for maintaining a strong relationship when your child has special needs.