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Engaged Couple Holding Hands

How to Be a Supportive Partner

Parents share their best tips for how to stay connected with your partner as you navigate the challenges of raising a child who is struggling.


You Are a Team

"Even if one spouse takes a leadership role and does a lot of the research and coordinating for your child, do not assume they will do it all. Continually check in and ask what you can take off their plate." 

  • Stay organized. You will have a lot of important documents and information, and it can cause unnecessary stress if it is not organized. Get a system down early and have both of you know exactly how to access the information you may need for your child.


  • There is a lot that goes into running a household, and even more when raising a child who is struggling. Distribute the work (financial, household tasks, parenting tasks, etc.) in a way that you both feel comfortable with. Have an honest conversation about your expectations of each other so one of you does not feel like you are doing anything alone.


Couple in Love
  • When possible with your schedules make it a point for both parents to go to any and all doctor appointments, therapy, and any other services your child goes to. This shows a united front, but also it helps to get you both the most accurate information about your child. If you both go nobody will be hearing second-hand information, and you can ask any questions you may have. It is possible that telehealth can make this more doable for your family.

  • Play to each other's strengths. Perhaps one parent is very good at keeping a level head and effectively communicating with schools, doctors, etc. Allow that person to take more of a leadership role in meetings and have the other parent back up what they are saying. Same thing for if one parent is better with technology, maybe they can take on more of the research.

  • It is easy to feel like this is all happening to YOU. Remember this is happening to your partner too.

  • You cannot control anybody but yourself. You can't control how your partner reacts and what they do. Try and let that need for control go. You cannot battle each other when you are battling other big things.

  • Be on the same page about what the diagnosis is and what kind of treatment your child requires. If you disagree about this research, ask questions and seek more help until you are on the same page.



"Talk, talk, and talk some more. Communication with each other is key. Make it a point to check in with each other and not only see that you are on the same page, but also that you are both doing okay with everything that is happening." 

  • Try not to be reactive to their reaction. Everyone experiences news differently—let them go through their emotions without you reacting negatively to it.


  • Find the right services for your family. One dad we spoke to mentioned finding the right therapist changed everything for his family. "With his help, we got control of our house back."


  • Be thoughtful of when to have certain discussions. If you can see that your partner is under a lot of stress or they are panicking about something, comfort them and allow them to relax before bringing up difficult topics.


Happy Couple
  • This is probably a different life path than you expected for yourself. Recognize that and discuss it with your partner. Don't let that idea stay pent up—talk about it, and you will be more easily able to let go of any anger you have about it.


  • Try not to take frustration from outside sources out on each other. Your partner is not at fault with anything happening—they are in it with you.


  • You can't only talk to your partner. Have people outside of your immediate family who don't judge you. It is important to have a place to vent and focus on something else.


Maintain a Strong Foundation

"Pat the other person on the back when they did something well, even if it's little. Give them credit and recognize their strengths. You can learn from each other, and it is important to remind your partner that you appreciate them." 

  • Find a joint activity. Going on walks, watching a sports game, anything. Just something that you two can do together when you have the time and is also something you can talk about that isn't your children.


  • Encourage your partner to take time for themselves now and then. If they have a hobby they enjoy, let them know you think they should spend some time doing it while you handle things at home.

Happy Couple
  • The mental health of yourself and your partner matters too. Do not let it be secondary; actively check in with yourselves and each other and get any help you may need.


  • Cherish those happy moments, because they are there, but they go so fast. Be in the moment. Make things light and fun when you can. If you have an activity the whole family enjoys, make it a priority.


  • Fit in one-on-one time when it works for your family. One family we spoke to would go out for wings after their parent support group meetings and after therapy sessions. This allowed them to talk about what they had just discussed and plan a course of action before getting home to their children. It also became a social event for them, and they got close with other parents from the group—other parents who understood their lives.

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