Resolving Parental Conflict

What if, as a practitioner, you could help families change the way they think about and behave towards their co-parent/co-parent’s family?

The child may continue to have a loving relationship with all the people that have been in their lives as well as their relationships with new partners and their children too.

It is possible but may need a flexible and open approach of trial and error as everyone responds differently to help. This section explores some of the tools and skills that practitioners can employ when facilitating healthy conversations with couples.

Lets consider what impact interventions can have on a family. Take a look at the video below.

Communicaion is key

Focus on empathy

Sensitivity to cultural nuances, for example can help you navigate conflicts more successfully and foster better relationships. Take a look at the box below to consider your next steps.

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  • What tools can i use?
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    • Tool 1: Strategy
    • Tool 3: Sensitivity
    • Tool 2: Empower
    • Tool 4: Vulnerability
    • Tool 1
      Communication Tools:
      There are a variety of communication tools that practitioners can use. Active listening techniques will foster trust and understanding with the couples you are working with. Effective questioning methods will provide space and time for the couple to think and reflect without being in the heat of an arguement. Using "I" statements to express feelings and needs which avoids accusatory language. Stress the importance of empathy in communication and utilise some of the activities which can be found in the toolkit download.

    • Tool 2
      Empowering Conversations:
      Empowering couples involves providing them with the tools and skills necessary to express themselves effectively, understand each other, and navigate conflicts in a healthy manner.

      Encouraging open dialogue and mutual understanding will help your couple to think calmly in a safe space.

    • Tool 3
      Cultural Sensitivity:
      Being culturally competent is essential in supporting diverse couples. Certain factors can significantly impact the way conflicts arise and are resolved. Consider the following with your couple: is direct or indirect communication more appropriate? Is there an acceptance of hierarchical structures or is an egalitarian approach more appropriate? Understand non-verbal cues, for example, what is considered an appropriate level of eye contact or physical proximity can differ among cultures. Cultural norms influenced by religion or ethical beliefs may impact conflict resolution strategies. For example, forgiveness and reconciliation may be emphasised in some cultures, while others may prioritize justice and restitution.

      Be aware of your own beliefs, assumptions and attitudes towards people who are culturally or racially different. Test your biases below
    • Tool 4
      Positive Vulnerability:
      When couples are at each others throat they forget how to be vulnerable as they are in perpetual fight or flight. Emphasise the importance of being vulnerable and value of sharing true feelings as a willingness to be open and authentic, this can foster a deeper connection between partners. Encourage couples to celebrate any successes, no matter how small. Positive reinforcement highlights the importance of effective communication.

Visible difference and unconscious bias

Understand your biases

Unconscious bias means that we automatically respond to others based on their gender, ethnicity, disability or visible difference in positive or negative ways. This is the result of many external influences formed by our socialisation and experiences.

Learn more here

test your own biases

Helping couples to communicate

by RelationKit

This short video is about parents who are juggling lots of pressures at home and work, and how they could support each other differently.

Tips on fostering positivity and respect during conversations
  • Text link image Active Listening:
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    Role modelling and structuring conversations will allow the couple to feel validated:

    Education on why it is important to give your full attention to whomever is speaking and why to avoid interruptions and refrain from formulating responses while the other person is speaking.

    Make eye contact, nod, and use verbal cues to show that you are engaged.

    Succinctly repeat what the other person has said to clarify their main points and maintain an empathetic response such as “You said that.. [ ]. I can see how that would be challenging for you.”

  • Text link image Being Open-Minded:
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    Helping couples by facilitating discussions involves being non-judgemental. Remember to:

    Approach conversations with an open mind
    Be willing to consider different perspectives and opinions
    Avoid making assumptions or jumping to conclusions

    Promote the same approach with the couple you are working with and encourage them to use repectful language and tone.

  • Text link image Mindful Non-Verbal Communication:
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    Pay attention to your body language and facial expressions and ensure that your nonverbal cues align with your verbal messages.
    Be aware of the other person/s nonverbal cues to understand their emotions.

    Keeping exchanges calm when you are working with couples will help them to think rationally about their worries and concerns. If the discussion becomes heated it might be best to take a break.

  • Text link image Expression of Gratitude
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    Express your gratitude for their willingness to engage inan open and respectful communication. This will help to maintain respectful communications with and between the couple you are working with.

    Ask your couple to acknowledge and appreciate the other person’s perspective and contribution. This may involve considering a deeper understanding of their background and experiences.

  • Text link image Solution based communication
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    Working with a couple towards finding solutions rather than dwelling on the problem may empower them to make a change to their mindset. You can do this by:

    Identifing common goals and shared interests to build on
    Being patient and avoid rushing to conclusions
    Recognising that resolution may take time and multiple conversations

  • Text link image Take-away tools
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    Try to encourage the couple or family that you are working with to maintain a calm approach to resolution by giving them practical tools to take away. These can include:

    Recognising their triggers so they can take time out and avoid aggressive confrontation with their partner

    Recognising why they or their partner behaves in a certain way

    Deep breathing exercises or ‘time out’ activities such as walking the dog and journalling, for example. Help couiples to understanding the positivity behind mindfulness (reducing reactivity and enhancing self reflection)

    Using ‘I’ Statements to encourage taking responsibility

    Set communication goals to work towards, such as reducing interruptions or using more positive language and gratitude

    Download the toolkit for more ideas

Relationships Matter

Relationships Matter

is a partnership between 13 councils within Yorkshire and the Humber helping families who are in relationship distress.

To access more resources and tools to download visit the Relationships Matter website here or go straight to their find more support page for an extensive list of external agencies / websites.