Having a strong support network is an important part of being a parent. Better quality relationships will enhance your sense of well-being. When you feel better, your child will feel more safe and secure, too.
Explore this page to learn about healthy relationships, tips for how to parent as a team, and resources to support you in creating healthy relationships.
If you ever feel scared, constantly criticized, or controlled by your partner, those are red flags. Abuse can be physical, emotional, or mental. If you think you are being abused, visit the resources section to find help.
Tips for Healthy Relationships
There are many relationships that are important to your child's well-being -- relationships with your current or former partners, with extended family members and friends, and, of course, your own personal relationship with your child.
All of these relationships interact with each other, too. Here are some tips that can help enhance all of them.
Start with yourself
Healthy relationships start with healthy individuals. Loving yourself and taking care of your needs is necessary to loving someone else.
Create and keep healthy boundaries
Healthy boundaries start with taking responsibility for your own emotions and actions, without taking responsibility for the actions and emotions of others. What's one way to know if you have healthy boundaries? If your partner respects your wishes when you say 'no.'
Establish open communication
Good communication means being open about your concerns and respecting each other's feelings, choices, and desires. It's a good sign if you feel comfortable sharing these things with your partner. If you feel like you have to filter yourself, or are scared to share some things with your partner, that's a red flag.
We often know what we don't want in a relationship, but have you thought about what you do want? Avoiding red flags is important, but it is also important to think about what kind of partner you want, and what kind of partner you would like to be.
Parenting as a Team
You don't have to be in a romantic partnership in order to be happy or parent effectively. In fact, some of the best parents are 'single' parents. If you are parenting with an ex-partner, it is in your child's best interest to work together.
Put safety first
While there are benefits to co-parenting, your child’s health and safety is your first concern. You may have concerns about the other parent’s alcohol or substance use, or you may suspect that your child is being left alone with people who are not reliable. You can consider mediation to resolve any disagreements or miscommunication or to create a parenting agreement. As part of your agreement, you may include conditions like parenting classes.
Re-frame your relationship with the co-parent
No matter how things ended with the other parent, it’s time to let go of the past and start a new relationship. Think of it as a business arrangement. Your job now is to work with the other parent to give your child the chance to know and love both parents. It may be hard to move on, but it’s best for both you and your child.
Take care of yourself
This may not seem like the obvious first step, but it really is the place to start. Whether you are stressed from parenting, worried about money, or upset about ending the relationship, it’s much easier to deal with everything when you feel like you have some control. Find ways to take care of yourself.
Keep your child at the center of every decision
When the going gets tough, remember this – co-parenting is about what’s best for your child. Keep the focus on your child and what’s best for them when you make decisions.
Establish good communication
Decide how you will communicate with each other and commit to doing it on a regular basis. Keep your tone polite and respectful. Above all, try to not to fight in front of your child. Too often, children believe they are to blame when parents fight in front of them. Use a calm tone to remind the other parent that the conversation needs to be continued later, in private.
Agree on the basics ahead of time
Co-parenting is a lot smoother if both parents agree to basic rules for how to care for their child. It’s important to talk things through so that you'll know that your child is safe in both homes. Some issues to discuss early on with the other parent: where your baby will be placed for sleep, no smoking in the home, and positive parenting practices.
Don't put your child in the middle
Don’t use your child as a messenger. Your child is not responsible for passing on information about child support, a change in visitation schedule, or the presence of a new romantic partner. That is adult business. Plus, if a parent becomes angry upon hearing the information, the child may feel that parent is angry at them or that they need to take sides. Always communicate directly with the other parent.
Ending a relationship is an emotional experience for all parties, and those who love them. Your friends or relatives may not like the person with whom you are co-parenting or may want to get involved in the relationship. It is important to set the expectation early on that you are supportive of the other parent's role in your child's life. Be firm by expressing that you want their love and support in doing what is best for your child.
Relationships can be complicated. There are a lot of resources available to help you create and maintain healthy relationships. Getting support might seem hard to do at first, but it is often what is best for you, your partner, and especially your children.
Healthy Relationship Resources
Learn about parenting together in group classes. Start during pregnancy by joining a Moms Club (all parents welcome) or find a parenting class near you.