happy couple travelling on train and talking over a  cup of coffee

A Blog by Susanna Abse

It’s September and most parents are back at work managing the challenge of juggling childcare, school and work.  The brief respite when everyone was on holiday in August and days could be lazy and a little less structured have gone again for another year. Family life is back to normal. 

For most people family life may be very rewarding but it can also be very stressful.  Meeting the needs of children and partners can sometimes feel like being stretched as thin as paper and because of this, tensions arise and sometimes arguments erupt.  Often these tensions are between partners; children’s needs are put first with parents spending much of their time keeping house; ferrying children and earning money.  Not much time for each other!

Most parents are very committed to giving their children the best childhood possible and that can feel really hard, particularly when both parents are working full time.  How can you take a night out when you’ve been out at work for all those hours?  How can you justify putting your partner’s needs before your child’s when you’ve already got to spend Saturday working?  Many parents feel that taking time for their relationship is simply impossible and that spending time together is the thing that has to be given up in the pressure cooker of family and work life.

But are parents missing something here?  What really is best for children?  What makes them happy? 

In 2009, The Children’s Society did a survey called The Good Childhood Inquiry.  They asked participants questions about what children felt was important to their happiness including one which asked whether parents getting on well  was one of the most important factors in raising happy children? 30,000 responses were given to that question of which 20,000 were children.  Interestingly whilst 70% of children thought that parents’ getting on well is really important, only 30% of parents did! Why this difference? What are parents missing? 

We also know from talking to those who run youth counselling and helpline services that many many of the children contacting these services are doing so because they are worried about the arguments between their parents at home. They worry about their parents splitting up and they worry about what will happen to them?

These findings are now backed up by high quality evidence from a huge number of research studies.  These studies (such as one by the Early intervention Foundation) show that ongoing conflict and unhappiness between parents has negative impacts on children.  Children in these circumstances do not thrive and are more likely to be anxious or depressed.  They are more likely to be hostile and aggressive which leads to problems in friendships or getting into trouble at school.  They also seem to do worse academically.  All in all this is not a good picture and information like this can make a parent who already feels pretty worried and anxious feel even worse! Perhaps that’s why we all try to turn a bit of a blind eye to this? 

So what’s the good news? Well the good news is that children are resilient and parents can get help. Relationships are never perfect but if you are worried about how things are going, then access our services.  You can find more about them here (link)

The potential benefits of getting help with your relationship are many and various.  Your relationship may improve and your mood may improve too - but most importantly if things get better between you and your partner, you know you’ll be doing the right thing for your children; even if that does mean they spend an evening with a babysitter from time to time!