Going It Alone: Tips for a Divorced Single Parent Expecting a Disabled Child

Becoming a parent is a time of exhilaration and anxiety. You’re thrilled to bring a new child into the world, but at the same time, you worry about the logistical and financial challenges that come with having a child. However, your job becomes a little harder if you’re a divorced single parent expecting a disabled child. There are questions and concerns about health care, insurance, and living environment that need to be addressed to ensure you’re as prepared as possible for the demands of parenting a disabled child on your own.

Physical Environment

The nature of your child’s disability will determine the modifications that’ll need to be made to your living space. Safety is always an issue where little ones are concerned, so it’s advisable to install safety gates to block stairs and to put in padded flooring that will cushion falls. Remove objects with hard edges, and place padding over the hard corners of your furniture. Safety rails in the bathroom and hallways are generally a good idea for a child with any kind of disability, as is sensor-activated lighting in the bedroom, bathroom, and any dimly lit sections of your home.

If your child has a physical disability that places a premium on mobility and access, widened doorways (a minimum of 36 inches across) and level transitions between rooms will make life much easier for a child who needs a wheelchair or some other mobility assistive device. It may be necessary to hire a local professional to make safety or accessibility modifications, particularly if structural changes are necessary. Always get estimates from at least three contractors if you’ll need a professional’s assistance. The more you can do to address your child’s physical needs in advance, the easier your job as a single parent will be.

Insurance and Expenses

Insurance can be a tricky matter for the parent of a disabled child. It can be difficult to determine the extent of your caregiver relationship (you may be needed until your child is well into adulthood), so it’s important to take out a life insurance policy to provide for your child after your death. If you’re not familiar with Medicaid, be aware that it can help you cover some of the medical expenses (not covered by health insurance) that come with caring for a disabled child.

There may be non-reimbursed medical expenses that can be deducted on your tax return; you’re at liberty to write off those costs once you’ve exceeded 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income. Also, don’t put off estate planning, and consider discussing your insurance and financial needs with a financial adviser or estate-planning expert. As a single parent, you’re the sole source of financial and medical assistance for your child, so don’t overlook long-term planning.

Self-Care

As the single parent of a child with a mental or physical disability, it’s essential that you pay close attention to your mental and physical well-being. It’s difficult to be an effective caregiver if you’re feeling run down and mentally fatigued, so take advantage of offers from family and friends to go out and do something for yourself once in a while — anything that will recharge your mental batteries will help. However, be sure to work in a little exercise every day. Even something as simple as a brief walk can be beneficial.

Yoga and Meditation

Caring for a disabled child around the clock by yourself can be extremely stressful. Consider making time for meditation (especially when you’re feeling out of control) or learning yoga, which is a unique combination of physical exercise and mental discipline.

Parenting a disabled child is a unique challenge when you’re going it alone — you need all the help you can get. Once you’ve determined your child’s safety and accessibility needs, figure out what modifications will be needed to get an idea of cost. And don’t put off seeking the advice of people who know the best options when it comes to health insurance and long-term financial planning for your child’s welfare. The day will come when you’re no longer there for your child, and having a plan in place will give you peace of mind and provide for her.

Author of this article is Ashley Taylor   disabledparents.org