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The process of divorce is difficult for kids to handle regardless of the circumstances. However, when you have a special needs child the changes and turmoil that are common with divorce can be extraordinarily traumatic. For this reason it is important for you to take a few extra steps when you begin to date again after a divorce when you have a special needs child.
Don’t Rush Things
While you may want to jump back into dating after your divorce is finalized, it is generally a good idea to give yourself and your kids a window of recovery before you do this. This is particularly true when you have a special needs child who will need more of your time and attention following a divorce. Spend this time re-establishing stability in your home so your child will feel safe and comfortable when you do start dating again.
Introducing New People
Some kids with special needs have a hard time with change, whether this change is meeting new people or not having someone in their life. This is why I generally do not introduce my dates to my son until I know that the relationship is going to last. Meeting your date at a location will help to reduce the stress your child experiences and it will also ensure that the people that you do bring home are safe and ready to be a part of your life.
When you are ready for your special needs child to meet your new romantic partner there are steps you can take to reduce the tension of this first meeting. Social story telling is a strategy that I utilize with my son, who is autistic. This involves taking a picture of the new person and using the picture to introduce the person to him. Before the first meeting occurs I use the picture to explain who the person is and to generally get my son primed to add a new person into our routine.
The first meeting is a stressful encounter for everyone involved so do what you can to reduce as many stressors as possible. A good way to do this is to work the new person into something that your child likes to do, such as go to a video store or go to the park. As they are semi-distracted with an activity that they like to do, you can introduce the new person. This pairs the new individuals with a fun activity and makes the introduction less threatening to your child.
Children and Divorce, Raising Happy Healthy Kids eBook was written as an outcome of Madeline Binder’s Master Thesis.