No divorced guy wants to spend time with his ex after divorce, but when you’re dad to special needs kids, you learn to deal with their mother, sooner or later. Here’s some advice to help you get there sooner.
In 2002, my daughter was diagnosed with autism. She is doing rather well now. In fact, she is in classes with mainstream students, on a diploma track, and made honor roll all through her just-completed freshman year in high school. It wasn’t easy getting to this stage, however, and there’s still fresh struggles every week. But during the time I was married to her mother, it was one of those very obvious stressors that permeated every bit of our relationship.
Much more recently, post-divorce, we’ve discovered my son now has Crohn’s Disease, up to and including a nearly week-long hospital stay. This did, much to our mutual chagrin, involve us spending more time in the same room than we have in the last three years. But we had to, for our son, so the drama was shelved.
Having Special Needs Kids Involves Both Parents
So with one child having had a disability since she was a toddler, and another, new crisis of health with the other, you can bet that between myself and my ex, we have a lot on our plate for dealing with their various issues. Having special needs kids brings home the importance of successful co-parenting.
So, what to do, what to do? How can anyone possibly get through this turmoil? Well, it’s still very much a learning process going on, but here’s what I’ve found to be true so far:
Seriously. Get on the same damn page post-haste.
Keep one another up to date on developments, or information you may find on the internet. Coordinate doctor appointments and therapeutic sessions for your kids so even if both of you don’t attend, the both of you are aware of what’s happening. The worst thing that can happen, especially when dealing with the care of your child, is a miscommunication. Get straight with medications, doses and schedules.
The custodial parent is in charge. Period.
I speak from a somewhat non-typical place here, in that I am the custodial parent of my kids, and I know for a fact it’s not usually the case that the father is the custodian. Be that as it may, I do speak from that perspective that when I say this is how a treatment plan is going to go, then my word on the subject is law, pending new information.
Go into the situation with that same attitude. The custodian, whomever that is, needs to be in charge of the process because, surprise! Chances are the custodial parent with be dealing with the issue nine times out of ten.
So, yeah. Follow the leader here (or, alternatively, be the leader, depending on your situation! Don’t be afraid to suggest something that you may think may benefit, especially if you have information to back you up. But don’t you, or your ex, go rogue and decide you’re gonna do it your way. Consistency is key here. The custodian needs to set the ground rules. If you are custodian and you get static about how you’re handling things, but know you, and more importantly your child, is doing well because of it, don’t be afraid to put a stop to the nonsense. If you are the non-custodian, well, try not to give too much static.
This sounds like the same thing as the first point above, but it really isn’t. This is more on you alone. Keep up on information on your child’s disability or illness, especially if you’re the non-custodial parent. The last thing your kids need is for you to be asleep at the wheel regarding their conditions when they’re in your care, even if it is only on Wednesday nights and every other weekend.
Keep ahold of your children’s doctors, specialists, etc. phone numbers, and don’t be shy about calling them if you have questions. In my state, it is a law that the custodial parent cannot restrict access to the children’s medical information and care providers. But it also doesn’t mean they have to provide you the information on a silver platter either. You need to be proactive in finding out the relevant info. Your child’s well-being, if not life, may just depend on you being informed.
Put aside the issues with your ex for a while.
Yes, you may still have some conflicts with your ex for a long time to come. But when it comes to the well-being of your special needs kids, just shelve it for a bit. Working together on this works a lot better than combatting every step of the way. Be reasonable, and remind your ex to be reasonable too. After all, what’s more important, their health…or your egos?
If you are in this situation, you have my full sympathy and understanding for what you’re going through. Just remember keep a cool head, and recall what’s at stake here, and the above advice should really come as second nature before too long.