Sharing custody of a child after a divorce or breakup isn’t easy for anyone. It can be particularly challenging when your child has special needs.
Children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders have different emotional and social needs than their neurotypical peers. You and the other parent need to think carefully about how shared custody will affect your child and the steps you can take to make things a little easier for them.
Autistic children need routines and predictability
Navigating the world can be particularly difficult for a child who does not understand social nuance. It can be hard for autistic children to adjust to changes in their environments and daily life.
Co-parenting often means a lot of disruptions, such as moving back and forth between houses. Parents can help minimize the stress related to those transitions by keeping a very regular schedule or even trying birdnesting. Birdnesting involves the child staying in the family home and the parents living there during their custody time. This custodial approach could prevent major disruptions to a child’s life and home.
Protect them from blame and anger
Children of all ages may blame themselves for their parents’ divorce. This issue is particularly pressing for children who have high levels of empathy but difficulty with socialization, which are some characteristics that many autistic children have. You’ll want to reassure your child that they’re not the reason for your divorce without talking negatively about their other parent.
It is typically best for parents to avoid fighting with and blaming each other over the divorce in front of the children. It’s even more important for you to shield your autistic child from any parental conflicts to ensure that they don’t feel vulnerable or at fault for it. Keeping the focus on your child’s needs during a contentious custody process can help you better accommodate their special needs.