It’s not always easy for parents to get on the same page when raising a child with learning and thinking differences. When parents are divorced, there may be even more obstacles. These tips may help.
1. Be equally informed.
It’s important for you and your ex to understand and accept the challenges your child faces. One way to do that is to make sure you both see the results of any evaluations your child has. Ask the school to prepare and send copies to each of you separately. Share information and insights you get from doctors, professionals, tutors and other parents.
2. Agree on the course of treatment.
It’s important for you and your ex to be on board with the classroom accommodations, therapies, and/or medications your child’s team recommends. When one partner isn’t on board, it can cause arguments down the line.
If you think bringing your child to physical therapy four times a week is too much, for example, you might not mind if he skips a few sessions. But your ex can feel very strongly that it’s a problem. Make a pact that you both will follow the recommendations of your child’s doctors, specialists and teachers.
3. Map out financial responsibilities.
Are you and your ex both comfortable with the in-school services your child receives? If he is to receive extra treatments, who will pay? Whose insurance will cover more services? Research what different specialists will cost. Talk honestly about what you’re each willing and able to spend.
4. Commit to communicate.
You don’t need to be chatty with your ex. But it’s crucial to keep the lines of communication open about your child’s needs. Decide how you two can keep in touch and have difficult conversations without fighting. Do face-to-face talks or phone calls get too heated? Agree to send Monday emails instead. You can cover the week’s schedule, any questions or concerns, and upcoming appointments or tasks.
5. React calmly, especially in front of your child.
If your ex sends you a text that causes your temper to flare, put down the phone. Don’t respond immediately.
Instead, ask yourself: “Does what I want to say back help me get what’s best for our child? Would I want my child to see me act this way?” Only respond to your ex once you’re calm and composed.
6. Agree on a schedule.
Kids with learning and thinking differences thrive on routine. Together, create schedule of when your child will be with you or your ex. Specify who will drive your child to appointments and social activities as well as who will chaperone school events.
Having a schedule can help a reluctant parent get more involved. And sticking to it may keep you both from feeling resentful.
7. Set clear limits and create consistent rules.
Divorce can cause some parents to feel guilty. When that happens, it’s natural to want to give kids extra things or go easy on the rules. But kids with learning and thinking differences need limits. And they need to see you and your ex maintaining them.
The same goes with creating house rules. That doesn’t mean that the rules at your house and your ex’s house have to be exactly the same. But they shouldn’t conflict either. The most important thing is that what’s expected of your child at each of your houses is consistent over time.
8. Be a team when it comes to school issues.
If both of you attend your child’s IEP or 504 plan meetings, it sends a valuable message to your child and his teachers: “When it comes to our child’s learning needs, we’re on the same page.”
If one of you has questions or concerns about the services your child is receiving, try talking to each other before approaching the school. It’s possible one of you already knows the answer. And between the two of you, decide which of you the school should contact first for classroom issues.
9. Be honest with a new partner.
Any newcomer to your family needs to understand your child’s issues early on. You may even want to share overview information from Understood.
When you decide to talk to your child about a new partner, make it clear that your new relationship won’t get in the way of his learning and attention needs.
10. Promise not to “use” your child strategically.
When a divorce turns bitter, kids tend to suffer. But badmouthing your ex or playing “good cop, bad cop” can be damaging to your child’s relationship with both of you. Try to keep these behaviors in check.
Don’t be afraid to hire an impartial mediator or other third person if you feel like you and your ex can’t keep from using your child as a pawn.
11. Document ongoing problem behaviors.
Does your ex break the rules you’ve both agreed upon for your child over and over? Write down what you’re seeing and when. It can be helpful for your case in the event you have to go to court to settle your differences.