Millions of children with special needs are being co-parented in separate households after their parents separate or divorce. It's tough enough going through divorce with a child, but if your child has special needs, the stakes skyrocket. While the typical parenting plans, including child custody and support, may work in some cases, each family -- especially those with children with unique needs -- must consider the unique challenges they face.
Here are some tips to help make life easier for you and your children: Keep a consistent schedule and regular routines. All children benefit from structure, but children with special needs even more so. Some children simply cannot adjust to constant changes in daily schedules, drop-off or pick-up, transitioning between houses, etc., especially during the school year, which can result in behavior and learning issues at home and at school. Consider networking with other parents of children with special needs. It helps being able to talk things through with other people who are dealing with the same challenges. It gives you a chance to vent to other parents who truly understand. One way to get started is by seeking out other parents in your child's classroom or other programs. Have your child participate in social and extracurricular activities. It's important for all children to participate in social and recreational activities. But with special needs children, it will likely take some extra time and effort to identify those programs designed specifically for the special needs surrounding your family's situation. Accept the help you're offered because no one parent can do it all! Whether it's help with childcare, transportation, or giving you a breather for a night out, take people up on your offer. From a financial perspective, take advantage of the many public assistance programs out there that can provide help with housing, food, heat, clothing, and other needs. Don't become overly focused on the special (unique) needs. Make time to enjoy your children. Block out a specific family time on the weekly calendar - and try to keep it on the same day and time each week. Turn off all electronics and spend time enjoying your child -- reading a book, playing a game, taking a walk, or just snuggling with them. Every single day, find ways to celebrate with your child -- even if it's simply celebrating that you made it through the day! Hang photos on your walls to celebrate special moments. They may seem small to others, but you know they're huge for you and your child. And they'll help remind you that you're doing an awesome job raising this very special child of yours!