A Special Need: Nurture Marriage
Extra responsibilities and stress often require parents of kids with special needs to fine tune their marriage more than other couples. Here are tips on how to stay connected, supportive and in love while raising a child with a disability.
Check In Daily
Parents may not discuss their everyday child-related struggles with their spouse. As a result, they can become resentful and emotionally drained. Other parents can feel the burden of not being able to “fix” their child, and may withdraw or deny there is an issue.
“Couples that collapse are the ones who hold their feelings inside. There should be a checking-in with each other on a daily basis for even 15-20 minutes of uninterrupted connection,” says Fran Walfish, PsyD, author of The Self-Aware Parent. These times offer the opportunity to be heard fully, without your partner emptying the dishwasher or flipping through television channels.
Understand Roles and Stress
Dr. Walfish notes that “often, one parent is working to financially support the family, and the other parent carries the burden of managing the children 24/7. This imbalance often brings added stress to the relationship.” A common problem occurs when one spouse quits work to manage therapy issues, which can be exhausting, emotional and lonely. The spouse who continues working has the added pressure of becoming the sole provider in a time of job insecurity. Stay attuned to the stresses your partner is bearing.
Seek Outside Help
Elaine Hall, founder of an arts organization for kids and teens with autism, recommends third party assistance if spouses disagree about their child’s therapy or other issues. Dr. Walfish notes that sometimes a school counselor can provide free services to ease the financial burden. Periodic meetings can be included in the child’s IEP, creating adiscussion with professionals involved in the child’s program. They can provide hard-to-hear information and explain the pros and cons of varying options.
Plan a Date Night
Schedule fun, stress-free date nights with no discussion of kid issues. Date nights strengthen your intimacy as a couple, says Hall, providing a foundation when times get tough. Can a family member or neighbor take over home duties for these evenings?
Hall encourages spouses to show gratitude towards each other to create a loving, enriching environment. Even if it feels forced at first, find nice things your spouse does and say so. The feeling of love will follow!
Julia Garstecki is a freelance writer, educator and mom of two