In an ideal world both parents would work together as a team for the good of their child, especially when that child has additional needs or needs that differ from the majority of children right? Well of course this isn’t an ideal picture book world and parents sadly die, divorce or move on. I still believe however that where there are two parents (or a team of relations) having input into parenting that it should be the aim to get them both on the same page, both understanding and accepting their child’s unique needs. It may not happen overnight but I believe it should always be the goal.
When I started having counselling one of the first things that was said to me was ‘you need to accept help where ever you can get it,’ I replied I had no one and so he asked ‘What about your sons father?’ Now we had quite an acrimonious split and I although I have made effort to keep the contact going because I always expected criticism, I hid the diffulties attached bringing up a PDA child, in addition my son almost always masked at his dads. At that time my son wasn’t having overnight stays with his Dad either, I worried about him not coping and not having the understanding he is use to about how being autistic affects the way he deals with the world.
The counsellor persisted, he said ‘yes, I can see it’s been difficult but how can you change that now? ‘I thought long and hard and over the sessions I began to see he was right. I reached out more and if I was having a difficult morning getting my son to school I would ring his Dad and ask him to speak with him explaining he was scared and not being naughty. Nine times out of ten my son would refuse to speak to him but his dad could hear the anxiety, and the issues going on in the background.
Over time he slowly began to get more involved, he came to meetings at school and even attended interventions with him on a few occasions. Eventually the trust built and we developed the arrangement we have now where my son visits his dad over night two nights a week. That gives me time to do the things I may find it difficult to do when my son is at home and also to reset. More importantly than that it builds understanding between us. He now sees how hard it can be to feed our son or for him to cope with unexpected visitors and so on and so he asks we how I manage and over time we are more on the same page. When I realised that home education was the only option for left for our son he was fully supportive and kept an open mind despite having reservations because he had seen for himself what the alternative was and the harm it was causing our child.
Something that really illustrated for me how far we have come the last few years was issues around my sons hair. I am awful at cutting hair and my son’s Dad was always critical of the way it looked. I worked hard to help my son past his anxiety and familiarise him with a local barber by standing outside and watching after school and eventually he was able to go with his dad, he would watch him get his haircut and them my son would have his done. However a change of barber and a rush to get him done plus increasing anxiety pit a stop to that and when ,y son became home ed he decided he no longer wanted his hair cut at all.
After a few years of this my son asked me to cut it and I did my usual awful job and held my breath for critisism from my sons father. Instead, however, to my surprise he watched loads of YouTube videos on hair dressing technique, brought the proper scissors and combs and has taken over hair cutting hair. I mist stress only when our son asks him to) he has even taught him what products and how much to use to style it. So something that was a complete nightmare for me had became a bonding thing for them. At one time there would of been a lack of understanding about why our son refused to go to the barbers and absolutely no solutions suggested, now because he understands the issues he can be part of working towards a solution.
Now this did not happen over night, it took putting aside personal issues, it took listening to each other’s concerns, inviting him to meetings and allowing him. To have his say as a parent even when I didn’t agree. It took giving him the space to find out for himself and allowing him a window into our sons daily life and most of all it took me allowing him to help and to make mistakes. Don’t t get me wrong, things aren’t perfect and both my son and I know that there is a long way to go before his dad really understands autism and PDA but he does react to our son from where he is now and respect his choices and so it works on the whole.
So I have to say if you are lucky enough to have the option of building a team with the second parent or step parent or even grandparents, try and keep trying, (obviously not at the expense of your child’s wellbeing) by;
- Being open to the concept of it.
- Passing information on about what’s happening.
- listening to they’re concerns
- Believing in both their potential to help and your own ability to ask for the right help in the right way.
Okay there is no guarantees it will work but what have you got to lose by trying and there maybe a lot to gain.