7 Tips For Nurturing Your Marriage in a Family with Children with Special Needs

Alethea Mshar
Special needs mom and Blogger
12/05/17  9:09 AM PST
special needs family

My husband and I often joke that we have to stay married because we couldn’t manage our special needs family, living separately. You see, we have two children with Down syndrome, and one of them has complex medical needs and autism. I haven’t been able to work outside of the home for years because of the numerous appointments and sick days from school that our children require. All joking aside, it takes both of us, working together, to keep our family stable and meet the needs of our children with special needs as well as our typical developing daughter.

Those extra needs also mean extra stress, tight finances, and many tough decisions to make, as well as very few breaks. Let me tell you, it isn’t easy to find appropriate child care for our son with just Down syndrome, let alone another child with autism and complex health care needs as well. It takes a lot of effort to keep our family intact and healthy, but we have found some tricks that work for us.

7 Tips For Nurturing Your Marriage in a Family with Children with Special Needs

  1. We go out while the boys are in school.
    • We might not be able to go out on a Friday evening, but we can enjoy lunch together from time to time, and the bonus is that the lunch menu is often more affordable.
  2. We give each other breaks.
    • We might not be able to get out together, but when we tag team we each get a chance to get out. My husband takes his time fishing, and I love going for runs and hikes in the woods. We both need that time away to come back and be better partners and parents.
  3. We take care of ourselves.
    • Sometimes self-care can feel like just another chore, so we try to make it enjoyable. I truly love hitting the trails with my dogs, and so I make that a priority in my day. We also do our best to eat a healthy diet to nourish our bodies and minds.
  4. We accept help.
    • This one is hard for us, because we’re both so independent, but it’s also necessary.  We simply cannot be all things to each other and our kids, we need to allow others to contribute. Whether that means accepting meals and gas cards or allowing grandma to watch the kids for awhile, we say yes when people offer help.
  5. We admit that it’s hard.
    • We watch our friends whose kids are similar ages enjoying increasing freedom. We realize that we miss out on a lot of what more typical families enjoy, like outings as a family. We have to be extra patient with a child who knows no personal boundaries and has frequent emotional meltdowns. It doesn’t work to just keep sucking it up and plugging away. Sometimes we have to come to terms with how different, and more challenging our lives are. Being honest about it and grieving the hard times can allow us to release some of the frustration that can build up.
  6. Remember your spouse as a person.
    • There is a reason you married the person you did. Whether it’s their sense of humor, compassion, intelligence, or some other wonderful characteristic, seek out opportunities to notice those qualities in your spouse from time to time, and remember why you love them.
  7. Sometimes it’s hard anyway.
    • Sometimes you’ll feel endlessly frustrated and upset with your spouse and situation. Don’t be afraid to seek counseling (even just bending the ear of the hospital social worker if you don’t have other options), in order to keep yourself and your marriage together. And take heart, even under ideal circumstances marriages struggle.

You can find more articles about parents of children with special needs below:

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1 comment

  1. This article contains helpful reminders for how parents of kids with special needs can nurture and protect their marriage. I wish my husband and I would have practiced these suggestions! We struggled with many of these because our children looked typical but had special emotional needs due to trauma experienced before we adopted them. Most people had no understanding of how much our children’s special needs demanded of us. I would have gladly accepted some help, but there were no offers. I knew that the children we adopted would have special needs, but I was unprepared for how lonely I would feel in parenting them. Reading your blog shows me that we’re not alone in the struggles we face. I cannot express just how helpful it is to know we have a tribe of parents who “get it.” Thank you!

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