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Maintaining a relationship can be hard work for any couple, but parenting a child with a disability can make things even more difficult. 

The extra time, attention and energy required to care for a disabled child can put additional strain on the parents’ relationship. 

While the situation can be difficult, there are many couples who have made it work and emerged stronger for it. 

Protecting your relationship

The needs of disabled children can completely consume parents. They become so focused on the child that they lose sight of each other. There just isn’t time or energy left for the maintenance required for a healthy relationship. 

It becomes very important for couples to come up with a plan to preserve time for each other. Dr Laura Marshak – marriage counsellor and author of Married with Special Needs Children: A Couples’ Guide to Keeping Connected – suggests couples carve out 20 minutes a day to focus only on each other with no talk of children. 

Even small amounts of time away from the stresses of parenting can help couples keep sight of their relationship. 

Read article from the Child Mind Institute with advice on protecting relationships (external link)

Taking self care seriously

Raising a family with disabled children can put extreme pressures on relationships. This requires placing extreme emphasis on self care, according to therapist Lisa Pinhorn. 

She suggests parents practice self-compassion, which involves cultivating a positive, gentle voice in your head. The practice includes giving compassion to others, and then to yourself. She says this is a sustainable way to bring more positivity into one’s life and create a lasting sense of wellbeing. 

Read article by Lisa Pinhorn on The Gottman Institute website (external link)

Seeking help when you need it

Couples may want to seek support from professionals to help them understand the needs of their children, themselves, and their relationship, says Psychologist Dr. Cindy Ariel. 

“Some people are reluctant to take this step, but when it becomes hard to function from day to day, this kind of help may be in order. Just as you would consult more than one specialist for your child if necessary, do likewise for yourself,” Dr. Ariel says.

Download article by Dr. Cindy Ariel (PDF, 4 MB) (external link)

Last updated on Tuesday, 19 December 2023

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