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The sight of a sleeping infant or cutely toddling child generally elicits smiles and positive comments, as long as the young one doesn’t scream, whine or throw a tantrum. However, parenting young children presents a bevy of challenges that test even the most patient, compassionate people.

Frustratingly, parental stress seems to have a powerful impact on development. According to this study, published in Infant and Child Development, “Parenting stress was significantly related to teacher ratings of social competence, internalizing behaviours, and externalizing behaviours, and the effects of parenting behaviour do not appear to mediate this relationship. Parenting stress was most strongly related to children’s social competence.”

On some level, all parents know that raising a child also means new responsibilities. But how do these responsibilities and stresses boomerang and affect parents and their relationships? When a baby suffers from long-term colic, faces a serious illness or struggles with special needs, what happens to the parents? Are they at an increased risk for divorce?

Parenting Challenges: Beyond Just a “Lack of Sleep”

Families can face numerous unexpected childhood challenges — cancer, autism, Down’s syndrome and a myriad of mental health disorders, to name just a few. Even a lack of sleep can play a role in ending a marriage. At least one study showed that this (relatively minor) reason alone contributes to separation and divorce for one in three couples. Intuitively, this finding makes a lot sense. When people survive on less than six hours of sleep a night, as many parents do, chronically, they will have fewer resources left over “in the tank” to deal with conflicts, crises and daily life.

Jenny McCarthy and Parenting Struggles

For example, actress Jenny McCarthy went public on Oprah several years ago about her son’s autism and the stress it put on her marriage. She divorced her husband and wrote two books about her experiences. Some analysts suggest that the rate of divorce for autistic parents could be as high as 80 percent. While that figure may be exaggerated, diverse research shows that parents who contend with special health care issues divorce at higher rates. For instance, having a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder doubles your risk of divorce before the child turns eight. Tragically, about 16 percent of marriages break up after a child dies.

Respecting Your Partner’s Parenting Style

Laura Marshak, respected author of the book Married with Special-Needs Children, observes that parents handle grief and other powerful emotional in different ways. By learning to connect with each other in spite of the pain, they will have better odds of processing through the grief in their marriage.
Parents can prepare themselves, at least to some extent, for the reality of raising children by communicating clearly about expectations. Immaturity, a lack of preparation and an unwillingness to take responsibility, however, all increase the likelihood of a failed marriage.

Dealing with the Stress of Parenting and Divorce

Our knowledgeable family attorneys understand that parenting can add more pressure to possibly fragile family dynamics. Call our firm at (763) 783-5146 for a no-obligation consultation about your complex concerns.