Even though, the majority of couples I’ve worked with as a couples counselor where the husband or wife has Asperger’s Syndrome or high-functioning autism, a handful of these couple through the years have considered and moved forward with divorce proceedings. Divorcing is never easy, and it can be even more challenging with a spouse with Asperger’s. And it’s all the more challenging when the couple have children, no matter their ages.
That said, I’m currently working with a wonderful father who has Asperger’s, officially diagnosed and he’s been doing a wonderful job navigation the co-parenting situation. I know this is true, because his soon-to-be-ex-wife often sends me updates via email where she expresses gratitude for my work with him. Although, I’d like to take the credit, I know that it is his own hard work that is paying off. He’s also very open to my suggestions and solutions even when I challenge him and call him out on some of his behavior.
While both co-parents will face a multitude of challenges, this post is specifically for parents who themselves are on the autism spectrum or identify as having Asperger’s Syndrome.
Based on my work with fathers and mothers going through divorce, and also Tim Backes from CustodyXChange.com, here are
4 Tips to Raising a Healthy Child As a Co-Parent If You Have Asperger’s/Autism:
1. Request a concrete and structured co-parenting schedule.
Children need support. From the minute they are born they are rapidly growing up and going through all sorts of biological changes. Boys need the blind compassion of their mothers. But, they also need the empathy and guidance of their fathers. Girls need the same things, though parental roles are usually swapped.
Don’t try and punish your ex by doing everything in your power to keep them away from your children. By attempting to harm your ex, you could actually be harming your children.
In fact, by trying to wrestle your child away from the co-parent, you may be stretching your time too thinly. That can lead to a very stressful lifestyle that can harm your relationship with your child.
If your ex is a capable parent and is treating your children with respect, there’s no reason for your custody schedule to not respect that with a fair time split that is in your children’s best interests.
2. Recognize that children have different needs at different developmental stages.
For example, parents with a newborn must work to ensure they meet their child’s very specific custody schedule. Or, if you’re a parent of a teen, it’s important to understand teens are old enough to grasp the main points of what is happening and how it’s going to affect them, so they require a bit more transparency about your family changes.
Think back to when you were a child. Events that might seem small and inconsequential to you now would have been very big deals back then. As a child, you went through some extreme emotional swings at every age. Your child, whether an infant, toddler, or teen, is no different.
Learn about child-developmental psychology if needed to better understand that children have different needs at different developmental stages.
3. Civility shows respect, and is in the best interest of your child and you.
There’s a saying that sugar catches more flies than vinegar, and while you’re not trying to lure your ex back, this basic idea can still be beneficial to your new co-parenting situation.
Anyone that has been through or knows someone that’s been through a divorce knows that the process is stressful. Even when both parties agree it’s for the best, conflict can arise over the smallest detail.
When children are involved, there’s absolutely no benefit to souring your relationship with your ex even further. It will only create more conflict, which your aging child will start to pick up on.
Instead, always treat your ex with civility and respect, both when dealing with them directly and when discussing them with your children. This approach shows your children how to act responsibly and it doesn’t give your co-parent any excuses to escalate any potential conflicts.
Always assume the positive with your ex and do your best to resolve any conflicts when they do arise.
4. Children need freedom and social engagement in order to grow.
As children grow they need more and more space. They will always need their parents, but once they are old enough for school, they need a solid peer group too. As they grow up they are starting to form their own opinions on complex matters.
While they need varying levels of support of both of their parents as they grow, they need to form healthy relationships with their peers as well. Your children cannot do that when both parents are smothering them.
Make sure you and your co-parent make an effort to adjust your custody schedule and parenting plan over time to reflect the changing needs of your children as they grow and mature. The result will be a much happier and healthier boy or girl.
Raising children is tough. Raising children under two roofs, when one parent has diagnosed or undiagnosed Asperger’s/autism is even tougher. Understand the ASD traits you might be dealing with. And if you need extra support due to your former spouse’s Asperger’s or high-functioning autism, don’t hesitate to ask for professional support and help.
Whatever your situation, there are ways to improve your chances of being a successful co-parent.