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Parental Emotional Health

Parental Relationships

All relationships go through ups and downs. It is normal to disagree sometimes. Parenting is hard work and can be a lot of pressure for everyone involved.

Looking after your relationship is important for your own wellbeing and for your children. Some of the common problems in parental relationships are a lack of time and tiredness. This leads to mix-ups and poor communication. Giving some attention to these things can improve your relationship, no matter other stresses you may have. You, your partner and your children all benefit when you look after your relationship.

Learning how to share how you feel, and listen to how others feel even when you disagree, is a good skill. If children get to see this, it models for them how relationships can work even in harder times.

Dive Deeper

Time

It can be hard to find the energy to give time to your relationship when you have the demands of a young family to deal with. Finding even a few moments to take notice of each other and check how you are feeling will make a difference.

  • Make each other a cup of tea, do the washing up together, make eye contact and ask each other how you are doing.
  • Go for a walk together with or without the children, hold hands, have a cuddle before you go to sleep.
  • Do jobs around the house together – anything from cooking and washing up, to some DIY.
  • Watch a box set or a film together.

Tiredness

Being with children all day is tiring and so is going to work. A lot of parents are doing one, the other or both of these things. Make some allowances for each other and look at things from each others point of view.

Try and give each other small breaks to rest and have some head space. It doesn’t have to be for long – even ten minutes drinking a cup of tea in peace whilst the other parent baths the children or plays in the garden can help. It shows that you appreciate the pressures on each other.

Try and have good bedtime routines not just for the children but for you too.

  • Get up and go to to bed at a regular time.
  • Turn off screens an hour before sleep – the blue light gets in the way of sleep hormone production. Maybe you could have a chat instead?

Try and get exercise every day – it can be a fast walk or an activity that gets your heart beating a bit faster.

  • It reduces stress and helps produce ‘feel good hormones’.
  • Helps you sleep better
  • Will increase your energy level.

Communication

Being able to talk about your feelings and listen to the feelings of your partner is very important in being able to get along together. When we avoid talking about things that are bothering us it can make us feel cross and irritable.

Make time to talk. Ideally choose a time when you can calmly talk about your feelings rather when something has just upset you. If you are feeling angry – try and take time to calm down before you react.

If you do snap – notice this in yourself and walk away. Remember to say sorry for how you acted. Your children are watching and learning from you.

  • Talk about how you feel using the word ‘I’ – I felt really stressed when I had to make the tea, bath the baby and do bedtime last night – rather than ‘you never help me with anything’.
  • Suggest an answer ‘how would you feel if I did tea and you did bath this evening? – then we will both be able to relax sooner’.
  • Listen to your partner’s point of view – take time to think about it before you answer.

Listening To Each Other

Listening is as important as talking to settle a problem.

  • It is easy to focus on getting your point across but you need to listen to carefully to what your partner says too.
  • Take a breath before you answer
  • Check you’ve understood what they say to avoid misunderstandings – ‘you feel that I don’t help enough with the children after work?’

Focus On The Positives

When your relationship feels difficult, it can be easy to forget to notice and talk about the good things.

  • When your partner does something you like – tell them – ‘I love the way you do ‘voices’ when you read the children stories – they have a lovely time with you’.
  • Make sure you notice when they are trying their best.
  • Even something as simple as saying please and thank you can get forgotten when we are tired and stressed by day to day life.

Read more about communication in relationships

Parental Conflict

Whilst every relationship goes through difficult times, if children are around arguments and conflict regularly it is harmful to them. 

Children who are around conflict, notice it. Even if they seem too little, or are in bed, or in another room they will know. Children are very tuned in to the world around them. They can be scared and worried when their parents aren’t getting on.

Try Relate’s Argument Check Up. See how you and your partner can improve the way you discuss things.

If the arguments carry on, counselling support can make a difference. You can go together or separately. It can give you time and space to work out how to improve your relationship. You might decide the relationship is over. Relationship counsellors can help you manage this as well as possible for you and your children.

Find out more about parental conflict

Domestic Abuse

Sometimes relationships are not healthy and the relationship is abusive. It can be very hard to accept your relationship is unsafe for you and for your child.

Growing up around domestic abuse can cause long term harm to children and young people. Those who have experienced growing up around abusive relationships are more likely to be abused, or abuse others when they grow up.

They are more likely to experience behavioural problems, low confidence, anxiety and depression. This can affect them throughout their lives.

When a parent is able to leave an abusive relationship the children quickly benefit from a calmer, safer home. There are services to help you and them recover from what they have experienced.

Often it takes time to come to a decision to leave an abusive relationship. If you are thinking about leaving it is a good idea to make a safety plan to make sure you are as safe as possible.

Read more about domestic abuse and support available

Who can Help?

Call 999 if you, or someone you know is in immediate danger.

If you cannot make voice calls, you can now contact the 999 emergency services by SMS text from your mobile phone. Emergency SMS is part of the standard 999 service which has been designed specifically for people with hearing loss or difficulty with speech.

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.

Living Well with Baby Webinar - Workshops for parents and carers with a baby, where the stresses of the parenting role is impacting on their wellbeing.

You can contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline 24/7 by calling 0808 200 0247. They can offer advice and guidance and find refuge if necessary.

You can contact Leeway by calling 0300 561 0077 for help and advice.

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

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