The birth or diagnosis of a child with special needs brings unexpected feelings and challenges to families, and these challenges may complicate the relationship between the child’s parents.
A mother may face feelings of depression, disappointment or sadness more intensely than a father or other members of the family. This is understandable, as she gave birth to and fed this life in her womb during the last 9 months. A father may feel like he doesn’t know how to console his wife or interact with his new child, and he may withdraw from both of them. But if they can get through this initial tough period, parents of children with special needs can emerge with a stronger marriage.
PUTTING THE CHILD FIRST
With any child, it is most often the mother who sacrifices her career to make sure that her child, along with her husband or partner, gets all their needs met. So it’s not uncommon that she may demonstrate more frustration or fatigue than usual. Mothers often have a hard time accepting that they need help or that they miss all those things that they gave up when they made the decision to become full-time moms. Sometimes husbands don’t understand this behavior, as they feel no one pushed their wives to make this decision. These normal stresses are compounded by the extra care a child with special needs may require.
When my son was born, I not only faced the challenge of raising a child with Down syndrome, but also the recrimination of my husband for not giving him more time and energy. For me it was impossible to set aside my worry and concerns about my son in order to nurture the relationship with my husband. But as far as my husband was concerned, I was exaggerating and obsessing about a diagnosis I could not change.
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Our differences made everything harder and they built up a wall between us. This didn’t help our child at all. In the end, neither of us was right. We were missing the most important ingredient of any relationship: communication.
HOW TO AVOID A COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN
- First of all, couples need to agree that the child with special needs is their child, and all the responsibilities should be faced together, as well as the decisions about early intervention, therapies and services he or she needs.
- This is the time to get together and work together towards the child´s health and well-being, setting aside your personal interests.
- Don’t ridicule or judge your spouse’s feelings. We have different ways of expressing our feelings, and those differences create the perfect balance that will help us to stay strong and be successful at the task of raising a child with special needs.
- It’s important to understand that raising a child with special needs is not an easy task. I’m not talking about loving your child more or less, because of the disability—however, the first few months may be challenging, as this a process of learning about your child beyond his disability.
- Men express their needs and love in a more physical way. Women are more emotional and may need to talk more than ever. As a husband, give your wife the opportunity to vent; that’s the best way to make her feel attracted to you. As a wife, understand your husband’s feelings and do your best to maintain the intimacy between you.
Eventually life will settle into a manageable routine. If you are able to overcome this initial period of adjusting to your life with a new child with special needs, your relationship will be stronger and more solid than ever before.