Co-parenting A Child With Special Needs: What To Consider

Finding the balance in any new co-parenting relationship can be challenging and stressful. For parents of children with special needs, it can be even more complicated as you try to reduce any disruptions to your child’s care during the transition. Putting the complicated emotions that led to your divorce aside and working with your former spouse to create a comprehensive care plan can help achieve the mutual goal of providing the best care for your child possible.

Here are a few things to consider when working with your child’s other parent to create a care plan for your child:

  • Keeping a consistent routine across both homes will help your child thrive

            There is countless research suggesting consistent routines are an essential part of a child’s development. This becomes even more important when your child has special needs. Understanding what comes next in their day can also help reduce unwanted stress on the child during a time of heightened change.

  • Create a set plan to share updated medical documents

Having access to your child’s updated medical records becomes even more important when your child has special needs. Whether it is the latest medication list or a full medical history, these documents are crucial for both parents to have access to in case of an emergency.  Utilizing apps such as WeParent, Parentship, and OurFamilyWizard can make sharing the latest documents easier for everyone.

  • Develop a list of approved caretakers and a system to keep it updated

Every child has unique needs. It’s important that all caretakers are fully versed in these needs so that they can properly care for the child. It’s equally as important that, as parents, you feel comfortable with the care being provided to your child. Working together with your child’s other parent to create an approved list of caretakers can help to reduce arguments and stress. It’s equally as important to develop a system to keep the list updated as your child grows and their needs change. 

  • Work together to ensure both parents understand the steps needed to take care of the child

Very often one parent serves as the dominant caretaker in a marriage, taking the lead at doctor/therapy appointments, dispensing medicine, communicating with teachers, tricks you’ve mastered, and preparing meals. Now that you are separating it’s important for both parents to understand the intricacies the primary caretaker has learned over time. Remembering that your child’s well being is more important than your ego is essential at this step. Keep in mind that if you were the primary caretaker, this may be a sensitive topic for your former spouse. Going into these conversations with compassion and understanding can help get to the common goal of maintaining excellent care for your child post-divorce with less stress.

  • Create a school action plan to keep everyone on the same page

Your child’s education plan may be different from their siblings or peers due to their unique needs. Working together to create a school action plan will help to keep your child’s education on the right track. This may include clarity on who attends school conferences, the sharing of updates from teachers, how to address any issues or concerns, and plans for the future.

  • Be patient with yourself and your former spouse

One of the most important things to remember is to be patient with yourself and your former spouse. Divorce affects children of all ages and abilities. Many children act out. Some children regress temporarily. The important thing to remember is that this is part of how your child is processing the change in their environment and not a reflection of your or your former spouses parenting abilities. It can often be helpful for children to speak to a trained professional so that they can better understand the feelings they are having about the divorce.