Isle of Wight Council

Support for Families

Supporting Parent Relationships - advice for families

Line drawing of parents holding childs hands

Advice for families

Most of us disagree at times in our relationships and not all conflict is damaging. But it can become an issue when it is frequent or poorly managed.

Parental conflict in relationships can occur whether parents are living together or separated. It happens in all types of families:

  • Biological parents,
  • step parents,
  • foster parents,
  • adoptive parents,
  • grandparents.

Parental conflict is very different to domestic abuse. No one should ever make you feel threatened or unsafe. If this is how you feel there are many organisations and services that are there to support you. Access our domestic Abuse information web pages ( to find details on the support service available.

The impact on children

When children witness adults who shout loudly, argue a lot, or ignore one another frequently for long periods of time, it can negatively impact children’s:

  • Self esteem,
  • mental and physical health,
  • behaviour,
  • academic achievements,
  • future relationships with others.

Research suggests this can affect how we parent our children and the quality of time we spend together.

Top three tips for families

  1. Try to spend quality time together and remember it doesn’t have to cost money.
  2. Talk to each other about how you feel and remember to listen.
  3. Consider and ask each other’s views and be willing and open to compromise.

As adults we are role models for our children. Remaining calm and respectful while addressing any disagreements we may have, provides our children with all important life skills. This will help them with future interactions with others.

Causes of parental conflict

Life is sometimes challenging and stressful, and all parents can come under pressure from time to time. Families are most at risk of parental conflict during key transitions in life, such as:

  • Separation,
  • bereavement,
  • new babies,
  • children starting school.

This can lead to other worries such as financial, housing and health issues. Remember all good relationships have to be worked on, and develop and grow in stages. Children don’t come with a manual and we are all unique and different.

Sometimes we need to take time to work out what works well for us, and transfer this knowledge in other areas of our life. If we keep communication open and do this together with a sense of equality in our relationship then our children will be happy will learn important tools for life.

Relationships are difficult for everyone at some stage – especially parents, regardless of whether they are together or separated. Relationship challenges for parents can affect your child’s behaviour, emotions and feelings, both now and in the future.


Comparison of constructive and destructive conflict

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.

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 with your partner.
  • 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.

Further information and support

Isle of Wight family centres have staff and groups that can help and support you. They can signpost you to organisations, provide advice and the right support to enable you to make positive changes for you and your family.

See it differently provide five short videos for you to watch. They may help you to see and do things differently when arguing. These videos can help you to understand new ways of managing conflict and how to change how things play out in the household. Potentially leading to healthier and happier outcomes for everyone, including children. 


Training provider: OneplusOne

Free online digital resource for parents. This training provides access to three evidence based digital courses.

These digital resources are designed to help you as a parent reflect on the conflict in your relationship and the impact this has on your children. These will help to promote behaviour change and help you as a parent to argue in ways that are helpful rather than harmful.

To access the courses you will need a smartphone, tablet, or computer and internet connection. The courses are online so you can go through them at your own pace, save your progress and come back to it later if you wish. 

The courses are:

  1. Me, you and baby too. This course is designed for new and expectant parents.

  2. Arguing better. This course is designed for parents who want to learn healthy ways to deal with stress and conflict.

  3. Getting it right for children. This course is designed for separating or separated parents who want to reduce conflict and communicate with their child’s other parent.

Register for the courses

  • Register online at this address
  • Choose the Southern England map and then select Isle of Wight.
  • Register your details, create a password and you will be given access to the three parent courses.
  • These online courses are free of charge.

If you need help and support with registering or accessing these online courses please email us and we will get back to you.