Ask a Social Worker is a monthly column featuring questions from the community and answers from members of NHF’s Social Work Working Group. If you have questions for our social workers, send them to [email protected].
My husband and I are recently divorced and cannot seem to agree on anything these days. How can we successfully work together to care for our children with hemophilia?
The fact that you are seeking advice is awesome in that you are looking to do what is best for your children and family. So often when parents separate, it can be very painful for the entire family, and children tend to feel it the most. As co-parents, it is important to put aside your differences in favor of following through on mutually agreed-upon rules and support each other in your parenting roles. Here are some tips to help minimize the stress of separation on your family.
- Recognize that co-parenting is a partnership and an agreement to do what is best to meet your children’s needs. Develop a plan, and know that you’ll have to adjust it as your children grow and their needs change. Flexibility is key!
- Let your children’s medical providers know who the co-parenting participants are. While it is customary for co-parenting to take place between two parents, there are situations where more people are involved, such as stepparents and grandparents.
- Make sure that all parties understand the diagnosis and treatment plans for the children. Everyone should take the time to learn which medications are needed and how to obtain them and give them when necessary. Every caregiver also needs to know who to call if the child is experiencing a bleed as well as how to infuse the child or where to go for an infusion if it is needed.
- Discuss with your co-parent any proposed changes in the treatment plan. Not only is this respectful and helps to reduce conflict, but it also allows the other parent to have any questions answered. If there is a disagreement over the treatment plan, arranging a meeting or phone call with the hematologist and the nurse coordinator can help co-parents better understand the proposed treatment plan and allow for compromises, if possible.
- Schedule appointments and procedures at a time that’s convenient for both of you. If this isn’t possible, suggest that the parent who cannot attend be present virtually instead. If only one parent is with the child when he or she receives medical attention, all relevant details and the after-visit summary should be shared with the other parent. Both parents should ask for access to their children’s charts so they can reach out to the providers if necessary and review relevant medical information.
- Since the relationship between you and your children’s father is strained, consider taking a co-parenting class. This class will provide you with tools to support your children through this change and help you deal with your co-parent. Asking the social worker at your hemophilia treatment center to help develop a plan or to work on areas of concern before appointments can also be useful.
— Denise Lowery, LCSW
Lowery works at the UC Davis Hemostasis and Thrombosis Center in Sacramento, California. She is a member of the Social Work Working Group.