It’s hard to raise kids with special needs. In a family with a special needs child, there is not only strain between the parent and child, as the parent figures out how to navigate the child’s needs, but also between spouses or partners. The last time I checked, the divorce rate of couples with special needs children was somewhere between 75%-80%. Obviously, that’s very high!
Make Time To Communicate
People have asked me what I have done to stay married for 32 years, and how we have survived and raised young men with special needs? One thing Joe and I always did was to spend a lot of time focusing on making time to communicate with each other. We used to have to schedule the time because we would get so caught up in our days, and he was working and traveling and I was running kids all over the place. By the time I got home at night, I was exhausted. We had to schedule communication time.
Keep Your Child Occupied So You Can Talk One On One
We made it a point to sit down for 15 minutes when he got home from work. I would get the boys engaged in something that would keep them occupied. (These days you have iPads, but I didn’t have that! You can use iPads, or perhaps put on a video or TV show.) With them occupied, we would focus on each other and talk about each other’s day for 15 minutes. It is a great thing to train your kiddos to give you guys that few minutes alone to talk to each other.
Schedule Date Nights
We also scheduled date nights. Sometimes I would plan these, and sometimes he would. I urge you to get a relative or a friend’s kiddo who knows your kiddo well, or hire someone so that you two can take that time together. These days you can go on care.com and hire special needs sitters by the hour. However you can, take this time to spend time together.
Patience and Kindness
Be kind with each other, and be patient with each other. There will be times when you are having a great day, and your spouse is having a horrible day, and vice-versa. Be patient with each other, and give each other a lot of grace when someone is having a rough time.
Allow Your Spouse To Be Frustrated
It’s also helpful to allow yourself and your spouse to have those moments when you ask, “Why did this happen to us? Why do we have the kiddo with special needs, and no one else in the neighborhood does?” Sometimes you wonder, “Why me?” Sometimes I would say to Joe, “I’m going to say something really inappropriate right now because I need to get it off my chest. Don’t take it personally, and please forgive me afterward when I apologize.” Allow each other that freedom.
Schedule Time For Yourself
And remember, as a couple, you are in charge of what works for you. If going golfing is what relaxes your spouse, let him go golf! I used to love going to the movies by myself or going to the grocery store by myself. Schedule time for you to do what relaxes you and for the two of you to communicate with each other. It’s hard work but it’s worth it.