Support and Advice for Families

Reducing Parental Conflict - Information for Parents

Conflict between parents is a normal part of relationships. However, there is growing evidence that shows that parental conflict puts children’s mental health and long-term outcomes at risk when it is frequent, intense and poorly resolved.

Affects on family

Parental conflict can harm children’s outcomes regardless of whether parents are together or separated, or are biologically related to the child, such as in blended or foster families. This conflict is associated with a range of problems for children and young people as they grow up including mental health difficulties, poorer academic outcomes, reduced employment prospects and poor future relationship chances.

Whether you are together or apart conflict in a relationship is completely normal. What matters is how you deal with conflict. When conflict is handled in a destructive rather than constructive way it can have negative consequences for parents and their children. Conflict can range from a lack of warmth and emotional distance through to swearing and shouting. The relationship might be classed as “difficult” but it is not abusive.

Watch these three short videos to understand new ways of managing conflict and changing how things play out in the household - potentially leading to healthier and happier outcomes for everyone, including children.

Constructive conflict Destructive conflict
Staying calm Physical/verbal aggression
Listening and talking openly Not overcoming disagreements
Finding a solution Bearing grudges
Being positive Sulking or silent treatment

We all have a natural reaction to conflict and how we deal with it but we can learn to deal with it more effectively. How you deal with conflict will impact how your child deals with conflict. When family life is good, children thrive. By improving your relationship your child:

  • may be happier
  • have better mental health
  • have better relationships with others
  • be healthier
  • do better at school.

Families are most at risk of parental conflict during key transitions in life such as separation, bereavement, new baby, children starting school etc. Families living in poverty or under economic pressure are more at risk of parental conflict.

Ways to reduce parental conflict

There are many things we can do to reduce the amount of conflict in our relationships. These may be achieved fairly easily with just a few adjustments!

Here are some top tips to try:

  • Try and spend more quality time together – have a regular date night!
  • Choose the right time to address things, waiting for a quiet time in the evening may be more preferable to during a busy school run!
  • Tell your partner how a situation makes you feel and try to show you understand their point of view.
  • Consider and ask each other’s views; be willing and open to compromise!
  • Listen to each other’s views without interrupting each other; one voice at a time.
  • Make sure everyone has an opportunity to voice their view, provide time for the other person to respond to what has been said, wait and listen.
  • Communication really is key - Celebrate things you agree on and use this in future discussions.

An important part of being a parent is to find out together what works best for you as a family; sitting down and talking about what is going well and what may need more attention or a change of thinking are good ways of ensuring communication is open and transparent. This creates an environment that ensures everyone’s views are heard and a sense of equality within the relationship.

Due to Coronovirus (COVID-19) we know that life has become more challenging for a lot of families and there is further support and help available through your local Family Centre:

East Newport Family Centre (Hub) Tel: 01983 529208

Pan Community Hub, Furrlongs, Newport, PO30 2AX

Email: IOWfamilyCentres@barnardos.org.uk

Facebook: Isle of Wight Family Centres

For more information please view the Reducing Parental Conflict leaflet (PDF 341KB, 2 pages)

Remember no-one should ever make you feel threatened or unsafe; if this is the case there are many organisations and services that are there to support you please take a look at the following link: www.iwight/domesticabuse

For more information

If you or someone else is in immediate danger or at serious risk of harm, you are advised to call the police on 999.