Last week, I had some tips for single-parenting very young autistic children. This time I want to give you some tips for single parents of school aged children.
As before, I want to start off with a disclaimer that I'm not a single parent. The ideas here are some of the more popular ones from discussions with single parents over the years.
|Image by sarahbernier3140 from Pixabay|
Address the Problems, not the Diagnosis
Failure to accept the diagnosis seems to be the single biggest gripe among single parents of kids on the spectrum. It's quite common for one parent, usually the one who has the kids the least, does not accept the diagnosis. They often insist that their child is "normal" and try to blame their child's differences on the other parent.
It's a big problem and it can make it very difficult for parents to get access to appropriate funding, medication and services. This problem rears its head even in dual parent relationships and even when both parents are onboard, it's very common for grandparents to not accept the label.
Unfortunately there's not a whole lot that you can do about label acceptance. This shouldn't stop you from getting a diagnosis but when parents aren't in alignment over medical treatment, it can have a huge impact on everything, particularly medications and support services.
Dealing with parents who won't accept labels is a little talking to a flat-earther. It doesn't matter how many arguments you get into with them, you won't be able to change their mind.
If your ex isn't onboard with the label, then your best bet is to drop the subject with them. Sometimes this means that you can't use medications that need to be tapered on and off. Instead, concentrate on things that you can prove.
For example, if your child is scoring low in math, you could argue for a tutor. If their speech or comprehension is problematic, then speech therapy might hold the answer. Perhaps your child's teacher or doctor may recommend occupational therapy.
Use your child's grades and teacher's recommendations to make a case for the specific services you need -- and of course, your ex should pay for some services at least.
Overthinking Things Doesn't Help
A lot of single parents overthink everything ranging from guilt over their child, their separation or the reduced time that they can spend with their child.
Leave your guilt at the door. What's done is done and no amount of analysis is going to make things different. Guilt won't help you or your child so, it is important to keep your thoughts in the present. Where you are, what you have available to work with and what your short term goals are.
Set good achievable short term goals and celebrate your wins as they happen. If there are barriers to those goals, make sure that you articulate them.
For example, if you are under-resourced, talk to your ex, your parents, teachers or other people in the community. Who knows, someone might be willing to sponsor your journey, or someone might have old equipment, such as computers or clothing that are suitable for your child.
Don't be afraid to accept a little charity. People feel good when they can help, so charity is a win for both sides.
Sometimes overthinking extends to far future ideas like your child's independence or ability to get a job. It doesn't help when teachers tell you that your child will probably live in a "group home". Don't be tempted to decide their future for them. There's no need to go closing doors at this stage in their life.
Resist the "helicopter parent" and instead give your child a little space to struggle and fail. It's important to remember that we learn as much from our failures as we do from our successes. Over-protecting your child will take valuable learning opportunities away from them.
Perfection is not a Goal
Your house is going to be messy, your child will not get straight A's (in fact they may never get an A or a B in their entire academic life) but that's no reason to give up. You're going to be tired all the time but that's because as a single parent, you are doing the work of two.
Take respite opportunities when they arise and "go out" and find some "me time" when your partner has your child. When your child is old enough to be "safe" in the house for a while, lock the bathroom door and have an uninterrupted shower.
A relaxed parent will always do a better job than one that is "stressed to the max".
The people who love and support you and your child will accept you for who you are. Of course, there will be other people who criticise your "messy" life and choices but these aren't friends. They'll out themselves over time and when they do, it's usually best to "unfriend" them as quickly as possible.
Your critics don't know what it is like to walk in your shoes and they're prioritising appearances over friendship. You don't need people like this in your life.