Improving Communication Between Parents to Enforce Rules and Routines
For parents of children with special needs, creating a happy home for everyone depends on maintaining a tailored routine. This structure will help the child thrive and prevent disharmony in the family. By contrast, when rules and routines are not enforced by either parent, problems abound.
Failure to work together to set limits and maintain a routine can happen for many reasons, including power struggles, miscommunication, and a deficiency of parenting tools. Perhaps one parent is in denial about the existence of a disability. Another difficult adjustment occurs when parents separate or divorce.
Focusing on Your Child
Whatever the reason parents are not in agreement about routines and limits, it is key to keep an open and healthy communication with your child. Before talking to the child about problem behaviors or other struggles, discuss the goal or purpose of the conversation, predict reactions, and prepare responses. Preparation will help each parent retain confidence and calmness.
This is especially important in families going through the transition of divorce. If possible, parents should prepare extensively together and follow advice from other parents and experienced professionals on how to communicate divorce to a child with special needs. Preparation, compassion, and communication will be as essential as maintaining the child’s routine as much as possible.
Lastly, consider that depending on your child’s level of understanding, conventional discipline strategies often don’t apply. Consequently, you’ll need to be flexible in trying out methods for disciplining children with special needs, such as rewarding good behaviors, giving countdowns or choices, and providing consequences instead of punishments.
Getting Parents on the Same Page
If you are troubling yourself with guilt over your inability to set limits, consider that even the best partnerships will face misunderstandings. Add in children with special needs and/or marital disagreements, and it can be increasingly difficult to uphold rules and routines at home.
Parents who are still together in the home can explore ways for special needs parents to strengthen their relationship. Building happiness and love in your relationship means there will be more to offer your child. Anything that reduces stress in the household and helps parents work as a unified team will make dealing with behavior problems easier.
However, if parents are currently separating or divorced, try keeping lines of communication open and always consider what is best for your child. There are many items to address when going through a divorce. Your family lawyer or therapist can help give advice. When possible, it would be a good idea to set up a routine meeting or call to check in and work collaboratively on issues that arise instead of waiting until the issues are out of control.
Moving Forward, No Matter the Outcome
In an ideal setting, all the effort mentioned above would establish healthy communication between parents. Progress can then be made in enforcing rules, limits, and routines in the home. If all of your hard work pays off in this regard, continually work to improve your relationship, whether romantic or platonic, because happy parents mean happy kids.
Unfortunately, not every situation will be ideal. It’s possible that your co-parent will never come around or is no longer a part of your child’s life. Take courage and let go of what you cannot control. Maintain your child’s routine as best you can and do not hesitate to reach out for help. Build up a network of support with family, friends, support groups and professional therapists. Special needs organizations can also provide support, ideas, and advocacy.