Divorce, Children with Special Needs, and the Pathway Through


I am pleased to share that I was recently quoted in Attorney-at-Law magazine, in an article about how divorce can impact children with special needs, written by Winter Park-based Family Law attorney Rebecca Palmer.

Rebeccas excellent article provides an important reminder about supporting the most vulnerable children, as families navigate this painful transitionand may also prompt her colleagues to suggest referrals for mental health services.  Mental Health providers are here to help, and gladly accept referrals to work with children adjusting to a new way of life. 

 While divorce can impact children with special needs in specific ways, the adjustment is challenging for any child, and mental health counseling can help.  Children often worry that they are somehow at faultfor their parentsdivorce; they may try desperately to keep their parents together, or fear that parents will stop loving them, since they no longer love each other.  Younger children may exhibit somatic symptoms such as stomach ache, head ache, disturbed sleep, nightmares, bed-wetting and other forms of regression; older children may also develop signs of acute stress, including problems with attentional focus.  These symptoms are usually temporary, and may resolve more quickly with the help of age-appropriate psychotherapy. 

 Parents can help by reassuring children that they are loved and valued, and that the divorce is not happening in any way because of them.  They can help also by not verbalizing negative feelings about the other parent in front of the children, and by showing mutual respect for all custody and visitation agreements, so that the children feel safe.  Quickly establishing new routines is crucial: Keeping to a regular schedule of custody sharing or visitation, making sure the same parent picks up from school on the same days each week, etc.  Creating a consistent sensory environment can also help: For example, both households have the same kind of bedding, same food, same dishes, sets of clothing the child can keep at each location.  Transitional objects that travel back and forth with the childsuch as a preferred stuffed animal, book or toycan also lower the childs stress levels when switching households. 

Many thanks to Rebecca, for highlighting this important issue!