Looking after your relationship

Many of the parents we speak to say their experiences bringing up a disabled child have brought them closer together. Some couples do become overwhelmed and separate, but with the right support both parents can play an active and important role in their child's life.

Our parent experts have gathered ideas to help you look after your relationship or nurture your child in a healthy single parent relationship.

Looking after your relationship  

  • Talk to your partner about your feelings and concerns, and let your partner know that you are listening to their thoughts.
  • Find ways you can share the work, even if your tasks are different, and above all recognise each other's contribution.
  • Recognise that you may have different ways of coping, and don't let this stop you giving each other the support you need.
  • It is normal to argue. Give each other 10-15 minutes to explain the point without interruption and agree on a time to stop the discussion.
  • Try not to argue after drinking, avoid becoming personal or dragging out old disputes.
  • Make time for your relationship, for example by watching TV together. Talk about your hopes and expectations for the future.
  • If possible try to have a date night - perhaps you could start a babysitting circle with local parents who have a disabled child?

Protecting your child from conflict

  • If you get caught in an argument in front of your children, let them see you make up, or tell them you made up. This teaches children about forgiveness.
  • Don't try to get your child to take sides, and remain united with your partner on discipline.
  • Take time to help your child explain how they're feeling. Be sensitive to changes in their behaviour and make sure they know they aren't to blame for an argument.

Relationships under strain

  • Talk to other parents to see if they have any tips to offer - visit our parent support groups pages.
  • Don't be shy about asking for help from friends and family. It's better to get a little support early.
  • Think about what professional support is available, for example a relationship counsellor. Speaking to someone outside the situation can shed light on new ideas.
  • If your partner is not willing to attend counselling, attending on your own might give you some strategies to support your relationship. Visit the Counselling Directory website.

Caring for your child when the relationship has broken down  

  • When agreeing contact arrangements with your ex-partner, think about a trial period that can be reconsidered at a later date.
  • Create rules ahead of meetings with your ex so you can focus on child-related conversations and avoid talking about relationship problems.
  • You may want to consider family mediation services to help you settle disputes with your partner. Visit the College of Mediators website.

Our Family Life Plus relationship site

You can also visit Family Life Plus, our relationship support site developed with relationship charity OnePlusOne.

Related information


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