We continue to celebrate the amazing parents in our community who are raising children with additional needs by sharing their relationship stories and advice! Today’s blog is a chat with Kim Malcolm. Kim is a Team manager in Adult Services for Hartlepool Borough Council and has supported the Healthy Relationship Partnership in recent months sharing her experiences and that of her husband Ste. Kim is also a Mum of 2 and through her experiences offers these thoughts for other parents with in a similar situation to her own.
Q: What do you think are the ingredients for a strong couple relationship when you’ve got a child with additional needs?
A: Team work is definitely the most important ingredient and it is about helping each other when one of you is struggling. It is really important to not see things as “whose turn is it?” and getting into “well, I did it last time” and avoid point scoring, that is really not helpful. Not waiting for your partner to ask for help, being present when you are at home and not “bringing work home” so you’re less likely to notice what needs doing. It is very important to not be critical of each other, especially when the other one has lost their cool. So humour is another very important thing to have within the relationship, it helps defuse and deal with things you’re not happy with in a more constructive way. Being prepared and spending time planning for things is an enormous part of keeping all relationships in the house positive. Being disciplined in sticking to the routines means we get happy children. Finally, I think accepting the sense of loss when realising your children and family might not be able to have exactly the same experience as other families. It is okay to not be okay sometimes and it’s okay to ask for help!
Q: Where you’ve seen relationships that share out the responsibility and the understanding of the child what impact do you think that has on the child?
A: Routines are key and to have good routines has a significant positive impact on the children. They feel secure around the certainty of the routines. So if we are sharing that responsibility we both have to make sure the routines are in place. The children experience the best of us and that means the strengths of each parent and they seem to appreciate the differences in that and get specific things from each of us.
Q: What would your top tips be for parents for having a really strong relationship that will benefit the child?
A: Our top tips would be:
- Humour – keep your sense of humour and make each other laugh.
- Helping without being asked – you need to be present when you’re at home, not distracted.
- Take time out together as a couple (short breaks away as well as evenings out if possible). Take time out on your own, keeping friendships and hobbies going.
- Sharing tasks and roles equally and fairly.
- Appreciate each other’s strengths.
- Stick to a good routine; include planning for the day, for activities; holidays etc.
- Take time to talk about the children and share your thoughts and feelings with each other.
- Recognise each other’s ‘breaking point’ and keep good communication between each other so that time out or tasks can be swapped.
- Accept nobody or anything is perfect.