When we go down the aisle and say “I do,” we never think of us someday being a single parent of a child with autism. Yet for millions of parents, that is their reality. Parenting an autistic child in itself is a difficult proposition. To go it alone is for the very courageous parents out there.
In this post, we will discuss the challenges and some tips to help single parents raise a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). As you will read in the article, we encourage parents to seek external support and help at every step of parenting a child with ASD. You can find great tips and advice from professionals and experts as well as several free social stories online via different resources.
Tips on Parenting an Autistic Child While Divorced
A recent survey of single parents and divorced parents of children with ASD has revealed several challenges parents face in almost all aspects of life after a divorce. The survey found the three broader themes of challenges are:
- Divorce after diagnosis
- Transitioning to single parenting
- Financial and logistical stress
We will focus on these three areas and provide some tips to handle them.
Divorce after Diagnosis
No matter how you slice it, marriages are tough. About 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Divorce has become a very common part of our society, and every couple entering a marriage knows they have a 50-50 chance of making it.
If you find yourself at the end of a marriage, don’t despair. You are not alone. You just happen to be in the 50% of the population who are also going through divorce.
Marriages fall apart for many different reasons. Financial, commitment, and external trauma are some of the top reasons for divorce. When your child is diagnosed with Autism, the news comes as a bit of trauma to the family. Parents find themselves suddenly in a position to care for a special needs child. The stress and strain of a “special needs” diagnosis are tremendous and can certainly affect a marriage.
For one, your child becomes your priority, and all the other family priorities – like working on your marriage or attention and time for each other – take a back seat.
As such, it is not a surprise that many parents file for divorce after a diagnosis of a child. The strain on the marriage can be too much for some people to work through. This is how and why many parents end up in a divorce post-diagnosis.
Considering Therapy or Counseling
Therapy and counseling will help in dealing with the emotions and challenges you are facing with your marriage. Even after you have decided to seek a divorce, don’t stop the therapy sessions as a vital part of their advice will be about how to transition out of a marriage.
Transitioning to Single-Parenting Responsibilities
Deciding on divorce as the best option for the family brings up a complicated conversation in explaining to your child (or children) how the family unit is changing.
One of the biggest challenges parents face is explaining to their autistic children why their parents are not going to be living together anymore. The changes in schedule affect all aspects of life – from morning rituals to mealtimes to bedtime routines. Often the physical location also changes for the child as they go through joint custody arrangements.
Often the only people a child with ASD trusts and is verbal with are his parents. Children with ASD need a stable daily routine and day-to-day activity rituals. Changing that can deeply affect the child. All the progress you may have had with therapy may be in jeopardy if you don’t transition the child and yourself into single-parenting.
Pick Honest and Clearn Communications
There is no point in hiding information your child will need to process the changes. Adopt honest and clear communications in your approach in breaking the news and transitioning both the child and yourself to single parenting. Discuss with your child’s behavioral therapist as well as your therapist how to best approach the transition and follow their advice.
Financial & Logistical Stress
One of the other top challenges comes with the practical side of life after divorce. Divorces are expensive. The division of assets and liabilities can put a financial strain on both parents. Even after settling the financial aspects of the divorce, living in two households with the same income of each parent can put a major strain on finances.
A two-parent household has its perks, and one of them is that your household enjoys some financial efficiencies: shared housing and utility costs and shared transportation. Depending on the schedules of work, a two-parent household can even have built-in child care with one parent watching the kids in their off time while the other parent works.
These benefits are not there for single parents. The added costs of separate housing, utilities, and transportation require a major adjustment to personal finances.
Add in the pressures of out-of-pocket expenses of autism therapy, you are looking at a completely different and strained financial situation for families of divorce.
Access Resources & Support
As your household income drops (by separating the income earners into two different households), you will start to become eligible for various government social support programs. Government assistance comes in various ways.
From discounted rates on government services to childcare reimbursements to tax credits and financial allowances, all of it becomes available when household incomes change. Work with a financial advisor and a social worker to figure out the benefits you qualify for and how to apply for them.
Seek support and help from all around your community – grandparents can start to help in childcare, perhaps organizing more play dates with children of other single-parents to help each other out with free childcare. There are plenty of resources available out there, and we have to get savvy about ensuring your child has access to all the resources available to your family unit.
As difficult as it sounds, single parenthood is a reality for many parents of children with autism. All of the single parents out there are doing a fantastic job in coping with challenges of single parenting and parenting a child with autism.
There are several resources out there to help from therapists, counselors, social workers, government assistance, and even networks of other single parents.
Don’t be shy in seeking support and assistance. Cut yourself some slack and know that you are not alone, and you don’t have to go it all alone. There is no better time for a village to come together than to raise a child. Happy parenting.
Stepheny is a content writer at FeedFond. A foodie at heart, she loves channeling her inner Nigella Lawson and coming up with delicious dishes. www.FeedFond.com.