CO-PARENTING THROUGH CHILDREN’S BEHAVIORAL CHALLENGES – PART I

April 20th

2023

CO-PARENTING and CHILDREN’S BEHAVIORAL CHALLENGES

We often talk about how our co-parenting can affect our child’s behavior, and this is undeniably true. However, have you considered the effect that your child’s behavior could be having on your co-parenting? Many kids experience educational or behavioral challenges which impact the daily lives of everyone in the family. We here at Koh-Parenting want to acknowledge the unique experience of co-parents of children with special needs, and with that in mind we bring you our two-part series on the topic. This week’s newsletter will explore the realities of co-parenting special needs children in today’s world; stay tuned for next week’s edition, in which we will offer solutions for many of those challenges.

The Gist

Many children across all socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds experience behavioral challenges. Some of these behaviors meet critieria for a particular diagnosis, such as ADHD, autism, etc., and others do not. Either way, these challenges impact everyone in the family unit, particularly parents.

Signs that your child’s behavioral health needs are impacting your co- parenting include: fixation on your child and his/her behavior or treatment, frequent disagreements about your child’s care, difficulty coming to an agreement or following through on your existing parenting agreement, disruptions to sleep/eating, and neglect of your own self-care needs.

Caring for a child with special needs child can create stress in a variety of ways, including emotional, financial, and logistical. Deciding on an appropriate course of action, coordinating care, and accessing resources can be especially tricky for co-parents who live in separate households.


CHILDREN’s BEHAVIORAL HEALTH: A REAL AND PREVALENT ISSUE FACING TODAY’S CO-PARENTS

The period from birth to early adulthood is a time of immense growth and development. Historically, this development generally follows a consistent, predictable pattern. However, each child’s experience is unique, and there are many children in today’s world whose trajectory veers from the norm. These differences could be caused be a variety of factors, including situational, physical, intellectual, environmental, genetic (to name a few). Some may even out over time with or without additional treatment, while others may be more expansive and possibly lead to a diagnosis (such as; conduct disorders, intellectual disability, neurodivergence, autism spectrum disorder, ADHD) and individualize education plan (IEP). For the purposes of this newsletter, we are speaking to the population of youth with any behavioral challenges that significantly impact their functioning and require extra support, which we will refer to as children with special needs.

Most recent data from the CDC also states that 1 in 36 children has autism (Source), a number that has been steadily rising over the years. This data, of course, does not even touch upon general, non-diagnosable behavioral issues in the child population, nor does it address the influence of the pandemic on the frequency of these issues moving forward. We don’t know exactly what future numbers will show, and we don’t know whether behavioral or developmental challenges are actually more prevalent today or if they’re just being diagnosed at a higher rate. But we can conclude without a doubt that so many children, of all races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds, have special needs. This also means that so many parents across the globe find themselves searching for the best ways to care for those unique needs.

According to the CDC’s estimated statistics for kids aged 3-17, approximately 5.5 million children had behavior problems, and 6 million had ADHD in 2016-2019 (Source). This article from Cross River Therapy identifies that in the US, 4 million children younger than 18 have learning disabilities and 2.8 million receive special education services.

frustration children behavioral challenge

ADDITIONAL STRESSORS FOR PARENTS OF SPECIAL-NEEDS CHILDREN

Parenthood is never an easy path, and parents of children with specialized needs may encounter additional hurdles along the way. Examples of these obstacles include:

Disruptive Behavior Challenge in kids
  • Financial burden: Budgets may be strained by expenses related to appointments, assessments, lawyer/advocate fees, adaptive/assistive technology or equipment, therapy/treatment, etc.
  • Work/employment: Some children’s needs are so intensive that they may place constraints on work schedules or even lead parents to leave the workforce entirely.
  • Emotional toll: Day-to-day parenting can evoke a multitude of emotions, as can coming to terms with their child’s issues or possible diagnosis. Parents may experience grief and loss as their dreams for their child may need to evolve, and some may place blame on themselves or others.
  • Lack of support/respite: There may be fewer childcare or respite care options available for children who require specialized support. Logistical issues: Coordinating care, transportation to appointments, etc. takes work and can be a juggling act. Isolation: parents may find it difficult to connect with other families and/or may avoid socialization over concerns about their child’s behavior.
  • Disagreements about the course of action: Parents may have different opinions about how to proceed with treatment for their child, or how to handle behavior.

Some researchers argue that children’s physical, behavioral, or mental health issues can increase the likelihood of parental divorce or separation; others would say that parents’ desire to support their child compels them to stay together. Either way, everyone would agree that these challenges cause relationship stress within the family and between parents in particular. This stress may be especially impactful for parenting partners who are divorced or separated, especially in high-conflict co-parenting situations. The coordination and decision-making required for caring for a child with special needs can be complicated when moving between two households and can be even harder when parents don’t communicate well or tend to argue frequently.


ARE YOUR CHILD’s SPECIAL NEEDS IMPACTING YOUR CO-NEEDS IMPACTING YOUR CO- PARENTING?

The first step toward improving your co-parenting is taking an honest inventory of your relationship and its impact on all family members. The daily grind of caring for your child with special needs while also co-parenting may mean that you retreat into “survival mode” occasionally, just trying to get by. But when you can find the energy to do so, try to take a step back and reflect on how things are going. Look out for some of the following signs that your child’s behavioral issues are potentially impacting your co- parenting.

  • All you and your ex talk about is your child/child’s special needs OR You avoid talking about your child’s needs
  • You have trouble thinking or talking about anything else
  • You isolate with your child and have withdrawn from socialization or contact with others You put other important issues aside and are in “survival mode”
  • You feel uncomfortable leaving your child with anyone else, or nitpick each other’s parenting of him/her, or have a hard time trusting anyone else with your child’s care
  • You struggle to give your other children the attention they need, and/or your other children withdraw, act out, or verbally express frustration in response to what they perceive to be unequal or unfair treatment
  • You’re experiencing other signs of stress- difficulty sleeping, eating, concentrating, etc.
  • You continually argue with your parenting partner over aspects of your child’s care plan, or your parenting agreement that relate to your child’s special needs
  • You struggle to devise, or comply with, a visitation schedule
  • You and/or your parenting partner have neglected your own self-care needs

 

We hope this information shines a light on the challenges experienced by co- parents of children with special needs. In part two of our series next week, we hope to inspire you toward action! If you’re a parent, we’ll have helpful information for ways to enhance your co-parenting to better care for your child child, your family, and yourself. And if you’re a friend or relative, we’ll share ways you can be a support to and advocate for these families.

 
 

Still Struggling? Koh-Parenting Can Help!

Check out our learning guides that can help you on your co-parenting journey.

Koh-Parenting Learning Guides
 

By Koh-Parenting Services LLC


One Comment

  1. The core of your writing while sounding agreeable in the beginning, did not work very well with me personally after some time. Somewhere within the sentences you actually managed to make me a believer unfortunately only for a very short while. I however have a problem with your leaps in assumptions and you would do well to fill in all those breaks. If you can accomplish that, I could definitely be fascinated.

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