How to Make a Special Needs Child Understand Divorce

Going through a divorce is one thing. Having a child with special needs along with you through the whole process is another story.

In a divorce or custody case, parents must establish the nature and validity of the child’s special needs. This is according to the criteria set forth in the Family Code. They must also create possession and access schedule that comply with the child’s needs.

Perhaps the most challenging part of the course is divulging this painful information to the child. Kids find their comfort zone and a safe haven in their parents. They might react negatively when they learn about divorce. They might feel that they could no longer depend on both under one roof.  For a special needs child, it may be more difficult for him or her to accept the matter than a normal child because of a medical, emotional, or learning problem.

Language is Key

To start off, a developmental level of language that caters to the child must be used. This is important because he or she should not be too overwhelmed with the situation in order to prevent challenging behavior. Parents may use minimal speech to ease communication. For non-verbal individuals and those with severe disorders that may be too difficult to interact with, gestures and focused eye contact are necessary.

It is best to plan ahead with the co-parent on what to actually say because their own statements must corroborate. They must be presented in a clear yet gentle manner in order not to confuse the child. When everything is set, both parents must be present and the whole family gathered.

Personal Choice

Parents can begin the talk by telling the child that both of them will always love and be there for him or her and that nothing will ever change that. They can proceed by emphasizing that the separation is a personal choice that the child did not cause it. This is crucial because kids tend to blame themselves for the divorce, and both parents must never let their child feel that way.

For parents of normal kids, they can offer an honest explanation of the reason for the divorce. However, for parents of special needs children, it is better not to give any explanations to them anymore because it will be too complicated to understand which might leave them in a state of distress. The former can simply state that mom and dad chose to live in different houses, but they can visit any of them anytime.

Your Feelings Are Valid

Avoid invalidating this tough time in front of the special needs child. Acknowledge that even the parents feel sad and worried, so it is perfectly normal for them to feel this way. Most importantly, though a lot will change in the family, assure the kids that some things will stay constant. For example, state the fact that he or she will still see his or her friends because he or she is not moving schools, and if there is a pet involved, he or she can bring it to either his or her mom or dad’s house.

It is undeniable that divorce leaves children with a disarray sense of family. Parents must completely understand that their special needs child would not comprehend everything right away. It is important to talk to them again about the matter to make adjustments bearable.

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Mr. Hutton is a Divorce and Custody Lawyer based out of Round Rock, TX. His background is with child psychology at Arizona State University where he received a B.S. in 2006, and he continued this by working with the Children’s Right’s Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law where he received his J.D. in 2009. Throughout his practice, he has been a strong proponent of utilizing modern technology to improve his practice and the representation of his clients. He currently is the technology chair of CAFA of Travis County and is committed to improving and modernizing the practice of law in Texas. If you have any questions you can contact him at

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