Parents with a solid co-parenting relationship are less stressed and more hopeful. Maryam Abdullah, Greater Good Magazine. February 2021.
Pic: Julian Hochgesang
Parents, in general, are under a significant amount of pressure during the coronavirus pandemic. Those who have been able to switch to long-term remote work arrangements are simultaneously helping their children stay engaged with online learning while schools remain closed, and some are also caring for aging parents or children with special needs.
For parents of children with autism, a new study finds that they’re facing a high degree of stress because of the isolation, disruption of children’s therapy services and respite care, and worry about finances and the risk of illness for their children and themselves.
What can parents do to alleviate stress during a time when public health guidance requires physical distancing? Research suggests that co-parenting—when two or more adults (parents, grandparents, family members, friends) work together to share caregiving responsibilities—can be an important source of support for parents of children with autism. This is true in “normal” times, but particularly now when many families are hunkered down at home with only each other to lean on.
In a 2015 study, over 150 mothers and fathers of children with autism in Australia completed questionnaires about several aspects of their parenting experience. They rated their co-parenting—how well they communicated and worked as a team, and how much they respected their partner’s caregiving commitment and judgment. Parents also answered questions about their stress and their confidence in their parenting role.
The findings? Parents who had better co-parenting relationships also tended to have less parenting stress. “The most important source of parenting support for many parents is the support they receive from their parenting partnership,” explain researcher Chris May and his colleagues. Parents of children with autism may feel more isolated from friends and family, which makes co-parenting support from partners even more significant.