Parental Emotional Health

Every Relationship Matters in Norfolk

Children who are around adults who shout loudly, argue a lot or ignore each other often, don't see and learn how to resolve conflict in a healthy way. This can have a negative affect on their view of what a healthy relationship is. It can negatively impact on feeling safe within the family environment, doing well in school, and their own mental health.

It’s normal to have some disagreements with our loved ones, but it’s important to think about how often disagreements and how they are dealt with.

Remember - parental conflict is very different to domestic abuse. No-one should ever make you feel threatened or unsafe; if this is the case there is support available to you.

Read more about domestic abuse and support available

Dive Deeper

Parents Who Are Together

It is common for parents who are in a relationship to have disagreements from time to time. If arguments and disagreements are dealt with in a healthy way, it can set a good example to children, helping them learn how to deal with conflict in their own lives.

Healthy Communication

When you and your partner begin to learn and understand how to communicate with one another in a positive way, this will help children feel more loved by you both.

Spend quality time together

Try and find time to do something together. It could be switching off your phones and watching a film or asking someone in your family network to look after the children and enjoy one to one time.

Be open to compromise

Hear what each other feel and have to say about the issue you are discussing. Sometimes you might need to meet in the middle or understand where the other person is coming from and why they feel the way they do about the topic.

Use ‘I’ statements

Use “I” instead of “you”. This can change a bad argument into a positive and helpful conversation.

For example instead of saying

Why are you never home on time?" 

you could say 

“I feel abandoned and worried when you keep coming home late without letting me know”

These types of statements make your point feel less like an attack and can make your partner less defensive, which might help stop an argument from getting worse.

Really listening to each other

Active listening is a way of having a conversation where you really listen to what the other person is saying and check that you’ve understood it correctly. Active listening helps the other parent to feel heard and can really reduce the level of conflict.

Separated Parents

If you are thinking of separation or are already separated, there may be some tension around this. Whilst it can be difficult to find the new balance and ongoing plan for parenting arrangements, it becomes a problem when any tension or bad feelings are not handled in a healthy way. Your children will pick up on any tension between you.

Remember - The only reason your child should not see their other parent or carer is if it is too unsafe for them to do so.

Healthy Communication

When parents can communicate with one another in a positive way, this helps children feel more loved by you both. Here are some top tips to help you communicate in a healthier way.

Set hurt and anger aside

Successful co-parenting means that your own emotions must take a back seat to the needs of your children. Its important to set aside strong feelings and learn to work together with your ex partner. Take time to process your own feelings and seek support from your family network. 

Improve communication with your co-parent

Good communication with each other is also really important - even though it may seem impossible. Before any contact, ask yourself how the way you talk to them will affect your child. Try and remain calm and make your child the point of every discussion you have.​ It can help to have a list of things you want to discuss to keep the conversation on track.

Co-parent as a team

Parenting is full of decisions you’ll have to make with your child's other parent, whether you like each other or not. Communicating without having arguments makes decision-making far easier on everybody. ​Children feel less stuck in the middle when parenting decisions are made together. 

New Parents

Having a new baby is an exciting time. Babies can bring a lot of joy but they can also be very demanding and bring lots of new pressures to your relationship. In those first few months, even the best prepared couples might feel drained and over tired. It’s not surprising that many also find they’re arguing more than usual.

Plan for baby’s arrival

Make sure you have everything you need before your baby arrives.

Plan your meals

Cooking your meals and freezing them before your baby arrives will give you more time to spend with your baby and get other jobs done. Ask for help and accept it if people offer! 

Use ‘I’ statements

Use “I” instead of “you”. This can change a bad argument into a positive and helpful conversation.

For example instead of saying;

“You need to do more chores"

You could say;

“I feel sometimes that I end up with more of the chores when looking after the baby and it feels unfair”

These types of statements make your point feel less like an attack and can make your partner less defensive, which might help stop an argument from getting worse.

Access your support network and ask for help

Think about family or friends that are in your support network. Ask them to help out with some household chores or with the cooking. This gives you more time to spend with your baby as a couple. Take time to rest if you get the chance.

Try not to compare to other new parents

Don't worry about what other parents are doing. Focus on your child and your relationship as a couple. Remember, social media paints a rosy picture which isn't always realistic or true. You never know what is really happening in someone else's life. 


When Should I Be Worried?

If you have serious worries or concerns for the safety of your child when they are with your ex-partner or a member of your family, please follow the next steps to keep your child safe.

  • Do not allow your child to see your ex-partner or family members if there is a risk of harm or danger.
  • Ask a neutral person, that you both trust, to support with handovers of your child.
  • Set rules and boundaries around communication to limit contact with each other.

If you are finding none of the above are working and you are unsure if you can keep your child safe, please called Children’s Advice Duty Service on 0344 800 8020 to talk to a professional.

Who can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

Qwell provides free, safe and anonymous mental wellbeing support for adults in Norfolk and Waveney from a professional team of qualified counsellors.

To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum below.

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