By Todd McFliker
It’s no secret that raising kids can be stressful on any couple, but does bringing up a special needs child make a parents’ role even tougher?
Yes, it can.
According to a recent LA Times’ article, “Another risk for families dealing with autism spectrum disorders — divorce,” the unique challenges of raising a special needs child can take a detrimental toll on a marriage. Even when the youngsters grow into teenagers, they still require lots of attention, leaving little “alone time” for their parents. Often times, one parent wants off the roller-coaster. If the end result is separation or divorce, it can make matters worse.
Broken marriages within families of special needs children can be a momentous blow on the kids. Fortunately, brief relationship skills training has been effective helping couples dealing with high levels of stress strengthen marriages and families. Regardless of children’s needs, protecting a marriage is extremely beneficial for the whole family.
Good intentions alone are rarely enough to get through the stressors that impact parents of special needs children. Programs like PAIRS, a leader in relationship and marriage education, offer several different online and in-person classes designed to strengthen marriages and help couples improve outcomes for their children.
Many benefit from meeting other couples who can relate to your same difficulties. Sharing your thoughts, frustrations and ideas, you will realize that you are not alone. A 2009 study found that more than 75% of people who began PAIRS in high levels of distress made significant improvements.
Taking classes together can bring a rocky couple closer. In courses led by trained PAIRS professionals, parents coping with special needs children learn to identify strategies to enhance their marital relationship and keep it growing strong. Couples can learn how to express their sadness, fears, frustrations and other natural emotions that may be bottled up.
For example, participants learn to effectively communicate, in addition to designating “couple time.” The “couple time” can be as little as 20 minutes a day, and still be quite effective. Practicing these skills makes for happier parents. In return, children are more likely to thrive.
Whether or not you have a special needs child, participating in a PAIRS workshop will be beneficial to the whole family. Deepening love and connection with your spouse will go a long way to making it through any rough periods. For your children’s sake and your own, the investment of time can make a world of difference.