When parents split up, it can be difficult for any child. However, for children on the autism spectrum, divorce can be even harder. Beyond the heightened emotions that might come along with significant changes to their family, autistic children may struggle with the day-to-day mechanics of a co-parenting schedule.
5 Co-Parenting Tips for Parents of Autistic Children
Even so, sometimes separation is the best option for all involved. For those situations, these 5 Co-Parenting Tips for Parents of Autistic Children are a must-read for both parents.
Post a calendar
One of the most important tips for raising a child on the spectrum is to try your best never to take them by surprise. Depending on your child’s age and abilities, posting a sizeable visual calendar outlining your co-parenting schedule can be a helpful reminder of upcoming transitions.
When your child can easily see that it’ll be two more nights of sleep until dad’s house, they can begin some background emotional processing in advance, leading to smoother and happier hand-offs.
Develop a transition ritual
A great way to give your child a sense of stability and continuity is to collaborate on a transition ritual that happens at both parents’ houses.
The ritual can be as simple or as comprehensive as is right for your family. The key is to find a pleasant activity that will always signal a move back and forth between homes.
The activity becomes a part of your child’s routine, so hopping in the car afterward and heading to mom’s place.
No matter how fun and effective your transition ritual is, you don’t want to be doing it every day. Even under the best of circumstances, kids with autism tend to struggle with transitions.
That’s why you and your co-parent should institute a more extended custody schedule. For instance, if you share 50/50 custody, try trading off every other week instead of every other night. That way, your child’s routine isn’t continually being disrupted.
You know your child better than anyone else does. If you’re worried that they’re not ready for a two-household lifestyle, consider a co-parenting technique called bird-nesting.
For those not in the know, bird-nesting is when the children stay in one household, and the parents are the ones who go back and forth. Usually, families keep the marital home and rent a small, shared apartment where the off-duty parent can stay.
For kids without ASD, it’s usually a temporary arrangement to get them used to the idea of their parents living apart, but if you and your co-parent are up for it, you can continue as long as you want.
This is a massive commitment for the adults in the family, but if it makes a crucial difference for your child with autism, then it’s well worth the effort.
Consult with experts
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: no two children with autism are the same. Your kid will always have unique needs, and it can sometimes take a trial and error process to figure out what works.
That’s why it’s so helpful to work with a child psychologist or other specialist while your kid is getting used to their new way of life. They can help you develop an individualized approach designed for your specific child.
Just as importantly, having an engaged professional on your team will help you remember that you are not alone: 24% of divorcees have children living with them under 18.
Co-parenting Autistic Children
Co-parenting a child on the autism spectrum is not without its challenges, but armed with the right information, you and your kid can take it in stride. For more great autism parenting advice, check out the rest of our website.