Dealing with a divorce when you have a child with autism

There is a myth that a majority of couples with an autistic child end up getting divorced. The fact is that divorce rates are similar for parents of children with and without autism, with some figures indicating that the rate might be slightly higher for autism parents.

However, breaking up a marriage does become more complicated when a child, especially one on teh spectrum, is involved.

Here are some ways you can deal with such a difficult situation:

  • Tell your child the news together - Announcing a divorce is big news and is best done with both parents present. Decide from before what you are going to say and take into account your child's age, developmental level, and degree of understanding. Try and answer all the questions you child may have but you don't need to go into all the details. You also don't need to tell them why things have not worked out between you and your spouse.
  • Comfort your child - Getting such a news may raise fears in the mind of child. They may worry that you may have done something to cause the break up and worry about how life will be for him or her. Reassure them that the divorce is not their fault and that you will both be involved in their life.
  • Let them talk about how they feel - You child may feel sadness, anger, resentment, and anxiety. Those on the spectrum have trouble expressing their emotions, so help them to do so. Tell them they can be totally honest with you.
  • Keep your child out of the conflict - Never drag your child into your disagreements and the negativity. Do not complain about your spouse to the child and force them to pick a side. Argue with your spouse in private.
  • Consider custody keeping child's well-being in mind - In the case of an autistic child, consistency and routine matters. So consider therapy schedules, school schedules, etc while deciding custody.
  • Talk to your child about the changes - Change is difficult for children on the spectrum so prepare them in advance. Tell your child about the custody schedule in place.
  • Stick to the routine - Maintain old routines, activities as the stability of scheduleis important.
  • Discuss disagreements over parenting - You and your spouse will have equal say in making medical, educational, and other decisions for your child. Work this out together and communicate as effectively as possible.
  • Look after yourself - Get enough food, sleep and exercise at this stressful time. Ask for help with daily chores. Take time to relax and do things that you enjoy. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you find yourself struggling.

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