Raising a child with autism is rewarding, but it also comes with many challenges. It is difficult enough to face these challenges without feeling like your autistic child prefers one parent over another. But why does this happen?
If your autistic child prefers one parent over another, there are many possible reasons for this. One parent might be around more and gets to bond more with the child. Perhaps one parent is more consistent with both schedule and emotions, and the child considers this parent a safe place.
The above options are just a few examples of why your child seemingly likes one parent better than the other. In this article, we’ll discuss these possibilities and more. We will also touch upon ways to equip yourself to deal with these emotional challenges.
Reasons Your Child Might Favor One Parent Over Another
As we know, autistic children are often highly sensitive. This delicacy can apply to everything from bedtime to the order their toys are in, to the volume of someone’s voice. Many things can upset an autistic child, and one of these things is likely the culprit behind your child liking one parent more.
One Parent Is More Emotionally Stable Than the Other
With kids who have ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), it’s common to find that they are hypersensitive to people’s emotions. These children are easily upset by angered adults or even other children who are crying nearby.
An autistic child can easily become overwhelmed after being around someone who has an emotional outburst. This dramatic act can cause the child to withdraw from that person, seeking the quiet of a different room, or going to their “safe place.”
Within a parental partnership, one parent may be more emotionally stable than the other. This emotional yo-yo effect isn’t always a negative one, either. Perhaps one parent is much more excitable than the other or naturally speaks with high pitch and volume. All of these things can be disturbing to a child with autism, even if they don’t show it.
Over time, the child might learn that the more stable parent is less perturbing to them. Even if they never verbalize it, the young one could naturally be drawn towards a calm, reliable parent. It’s worth performing a self-analyzation of day-to-day calmness to see if the problem could lie there.
That Parent Spends More Time With Them
The adult who spends the most time with the child will likely be the preferred companion. Autistic children are known to have trouble with social situations. If one parent is around a child more, they will be more familiar with the child, and the child will be more comfortable around them.
Furthermore, the parent who spends the most time with the child will also be more accustomed to their preferences. It will be easier not only for that parent to work with the child but for the child to work with that parent. There are many subtle signs when an autistic child is upset, and the parent who is around more will be more equipped to pick up on these signals.
One Parent Upholds the Routine Better Than the Other
Autistic individuals are severely sensitive to changes in their routines. Something as simple as using the “wrong” fork at breakfast or waking up too late can severely upset someone with ASD. These effects can be expressed in small anxiety-calming movements such as flapping hands or rocking, but they can also cause full-on outbursts.
If one parent in the family is much better at following the child’s necessary routine, this will likely be preferred. The adult who creates the structure for the autistic kid will be considered part of the routine, and therefore, the child could be upset if another adult (or parent) tries to step in.
For Seemingly No Reason at All
Just like the cause of autism, the reason why your child prefers one parent could remain a mystery. There are many nuanced variations of autism, and it manifests differently in every person who has the disorder.
The reason why your child is drawn to one parent more often than the other may be something that is near impossible to determine. The reason could vary from day to day and even from year to year.
Whatever the case may be, it’s important not to take your child’s preferences too personally. Instead, obtain resources that better prepare you for the complicated subtleties of being the parent of a child with autism.
How to Equip Yourself to Emotionally Handle This Situation
If you’re experiencing the dilemma described in this article, there are a few things that you can do to prepare yourself for the situation better.
Seek Professional Help
As the parents of a child with autism, you are probably sick of hearing the words “get professional help.” However, it’s important to remember that you deserve peace of mind as well, and not all of your efforts need to be on your child. Professional help does not always need to be in the form of assistance for your offspring. Professional help can also be therapy for you.
Having regular visits with a therapist can greatly ease the emotional burden of having an autistic child, especially if your child is constantly drawn to your partner instead of you. Your therapist can also give you tools to cope with the stress of having a child with ASD. Simply taking the time to take care of yourself can have a great influence on your child as a byproduct.
Find Another Couple Who Can Give Insight
As a couple, you probably lean a lot on each other for support. However, situations like this can quickly drain the energy from a partnership, leaving both parties feeling tired and defensive. By finding another couple that has been through a similar situation, both you and your partner will immediately feel less alone. You will probably be reminded of the strength of your bond.
Deferring to a couple with a similar experience can also be a fast-track to learning some of the tips and tricks they took years to discover. Check with your local Autism Network, or reach out on the internet to forums and social media groups for support.
Invest in Insurance – Just in Case
Insurance offers financial backing in dire situations, but it also offers peace of mind daily. If you’re dealing with a predicament like this, the circumstances could ultimately lead to increased medical support or Applied Behavior Analysis treatment.
Unfortunately, increased treatment usually comes with increased costs. It could be dramatically beneficial to have health insurance on your side in these times. Some of the best health insurance options for autism include Applied Behavior Analysis treatment coverage, a true game-changer as a parent.
Children with autism are beautiful, sensitive beings that can have unpredictable preferences. These inclinations are formed by a variety of criteria, including what makes the child feel comfortable, what provides them with the desired structure, and what they are drawn to then.
If your autistic child seems to prefer one parent over the other, one of the criteria may be at play. Speak with your partner, and even your child, and discuss why this may be so. If you are still at a loss, professional and peer guidance can do wonders for the parents’ psyche.
- NIH: Autism Spectrum Disorder Fact Sheet
- APA: What is Autism Spectrum Disorder
- ADA: Signs of Autism
- ABA: Why is Routine So Important to People with ASD?
- Autism Speaks: What is Autism
- HealthMatch: Know the signs of Autism