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Parent relationships: tips for acceptance

Acceptance means living with and valuing differences in others. It can make a real difference to your relationships with your partner, family, friends and children. It can also help you and your partner adjust to the changes that parenting brings.

Acceptance: why it’s important for relationships

Acceptance is a crucial part of keeping relationships healthy.

Acceptance means that, as partners, you value each other’s differences. You agree to disagree. And you can pursue your personal needs in a way that’s good for your overall relationship. Not only in the early days – when differences are part of the attraction – but throughout the life of a relationship.

It’s easy to lose sight of your relationship when all of your energy is directed towards children. When there’s stress or unhappiness in a relationship, it becomes even harder to work together and share parenting tasks.

Acceptance makes it easier to appreciate the positives and resolve differences, leading you back to greater intimacy and care for each other. So acceptance is an attitude that can reduce the stress and challenges of working together to raise children.

Acceptance can greatly improve your partner’s readiness to listen and accept your perspective. It can even open the doors to change. People who feel accepted are more willing to listen and take suggestions on board.

All of this means acceptance creates a healthier, happier and more positive environment for the whole family.

Tips for strengthening acceptance

Spend time on your relationship

  • Spend time together on shared interests.
  • Show your interest by asking about your partner’s activities and joining in when invited.
  • Think of some things you could do to show your partner your love and appreciation.
  • Be polite.
  • Think of activities you did together when you first met. Consider what you liked and how you might do those activities together again.
  • Talk with your partner about happy times you’ve had together.

Read more about healthy relationships for parents and partners.

Focus on solving problems

  • If you have a problem, think about what you want to happen.
  • Invite your partner to help solve the problem, without pushing or blaming.
  • Identify ways you can solve the problem, even if your partner doesn’t participate.
  • Get help from others if you need to.
  • Focus on what outcome you’d like, rather than on what your partner should or shouldn’t have done.

Read more about problem-solving.

Take responsibility for what you want

  • Try to identify what’s important to you in your life – for example, communicating with others, affection, fun, safety, financial security, time together as a family and so on.
  • Think about how you can meet those needs, including seeking help from your partner, friends, family, support groups and professionals.

Be generous with your understanding

  • When you’re talking and listening with your partner, remember that it can be difficult to explain what you want and how you feel to someone else. Sometimes the words come out wrong!
  • Encourage your partner to open up by asking open-ended questions and not interrupting.
  • Look for and acknowledge your partner’s positive intentions – for example, ‘I know that you’re working long hours because you want to take care of us’.
  • Ask your partner to explain or give more information if you don’t understand what’s being said.
  • Listen, without defending your own position or behaviour.
  • Acknowledge your partner’s point of view even if you don’t agree. For example, ‘I can understand why you’re angry that I asked my parents over for the weekend without talking to you first’.
  • Avoid jumping to conclusions, blaming or criticising your partner.
  • Give your partner the benefit of the doubt.

Read more about talking with your partner and listening to your partner.

Look after yourself

  • Set time aside each day or week to do something you enjoy. For example, have a bath, play netball, read a book, watch TV and so on.
  • Pursue your own work or creative interests. For example, do an adult short course, go for a promotion and so on.
  • Look after your physical health, have regular check-ups with your doctor, and eat well.
  • Make a deal with a friend to care for each other’s children so that you can have a break or go on a date with your partner.

Read more about looking after yourself and looking after your physical health.

Getting help

Acceptance is not about tolerating harmful behaviour.

If you’re in a relationship that involves domestic violence, call a helpline, seek support and do whatever you need to do to ensure your safety and your children’s safety.

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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