Last updated:


The aim of this toolkit is to support all practitioners in Buckinghamshire to understand:

  1. what parental conflict is
  2. how it impacts on children and young people’s outcomes

It aims to provide practical tools and resources to support families affected by conflict. This is part of Buckinghamshire Council's Reducing Parental Conflict (RPC) offer, commissioned by the Department of Work and Pensions.

Supporting healthy relationships in families is everybody’s business. All professionals working across the continuum of needs can provide support. This includes but is not subject to:

  • education 
  • health 
  • early help
  • children's social care 
  • housing 
  • police
  • community and voluntary sector 
  • early years settings

When we use the term 'Practitioners', we are describing anybody who works directly with families. For example: 

  1. A volunteer supporting a parent in a community play session. 
  2. A teaching assistant having a conversation at the school gates. 
  3. A health visitor carrying out a home visit. 
  4. A youth worker providing direct work for a young person. 

Each of these scenarios includes practitioners who can support families experiencing challenges at key transition points. By using already built skills and further knowledge from this toolkit we can:

  1. provide clear and consistent messages
  2. highlight the importance of strong, conflict-free family relationships

This toolkit is a pool of information, tools, and resources. It is not a structured programme of work or intervention. Any practitioner or volunteer working with families can start conversations about parental relationships. This can have a positive impact on reducing parental conflict.

What is parental conflict

Conflict between parents is a normal part of relationships and family life.

‘Parental conflict can be reflected in a wide range of behaviours, from constructive (helpful) to destructive (harmful) behaviours. Harmful behaviours in a relationship which are frequent, intense and poorly resolved can lead to a lack of respect and a lack of resolution. Behaviours such as shouting, becoming withdrawn or slamming doors can be viewed as destructive. Parental relationship distress is different from domestic abuse. This is because there is not an imbalance of power, neither parent seeks to control the other, and neither parent is fearful of the other.’ (Department for Work and Pensions).

Parental conflict is generally issue-focused. This is where: 

  •  parents have differences of opinions or disagreements 
  • there continues to be respect and emotional control 
  • they can resolve or negotiate a solution 

Harmful conflict occurs where: 

  • there are greater levels of blaming/personal insults 
  • there is a focus on winning, so a solution is rarely found

The word 'parents' in this context refers to anyone in a parenting role. For example, carers, grandparents, aunties and uncles. Children are vulnerable to the impact of conflict whether their parents are together, apart or separating. 

Print entire guide

Was this page helpful?

Very poor
Neither good nor poor
Very good