Enhancing Relationship Skills

Building relationship skills as a key topic area into a fatherhood program’s curricula and services can be extremely beneficial for fathers.  These skills can help successfully fathers navigate different types of relationships, including spouse-partner, co-parent, parent-child, and workplace relationships. Establishing open lines of communication and strong relationships with these individuals can help fathers to reduce conflict and engage more closely with their children.

By providing services to help fathers communicate openly in healthy, cooperative parenting relationships, programs can help improve outcomes for children, regardless of their parents’ living arrangements.

Tips & Best Practices

  • Fatherhood programs can help fathers communicate with their children. Research indicates that fathers who communicate and connect with their children positively impact their children’s well-being and development. Programs can help fathers become effective communicators by providing information on active listening skills, empathy, non-verbal communication, and emphasizing positive behavior.
  • Programs can emphasize a father’s role in successful co-parenting. Co-parents may include divorced parents, foster parents, incarcerated parents, grandparents, or additional caregivers. Supportive co-parenting can benefit children and minimize the effects of family tension, stress, or conflict. Fathers can contribute to co-parenting success. Co-parenting principles can be incorporated into fatherhood programs to help fathers support their children by establishing a positive co-parenting environment.
  • Fatherhood programs can improve child well-being by helping fathers to overcome barriers and build stronger relationships with their children. This webinar highlights several fatherhood programs that work with fathers to develop relationships with their children and co-parents, including how to navigate complex family dynamics, develop conflict management tools, and solve problems.
  • Non-residential fathers can develop and maintain strong relationships with their children and co-parents. Healthy father involvement is important for overall child well-being, even when a father does not live with his children. Programs working with non-residential fathers, including incarcerated fathers, can encourage fathers to understand how their interactions with their co-parent and children are important. Unfortunately, non-residential fathers often face various communication and relationship challenges that can affect engagement with their children, or willingness to pay child support.  Programs can address these challenges by helping fathers develop a plan regarding how often, and how they connect with their child, tailored to the child’s age. Fathers should be encouraged to support their children in whatever capacity they need – whether this be emotionally, financially, or spiritually. Programs can also encourage fathers to speak openly and directly to their child about difficult issues, such as stress, that a child may be experiencing due to complex family dynamics.


What can programs do to help fathers develop healthy relationships?

Programs can help fathers develop and enhance their relationship skills. Programs also can emphasize the importance of supportive co-parenting relationships. Strategies for building these skills include providing informational materials and facilitating small groups to discuss strategies for developing healthy relationships.

What types of relationships are important for fathers?

Relationships with a father’s child(ren), partner, ex-partner, co-parent, employer, and friends can all contribute to his ability to effectively navigate challenges and be a supportive presence in his children’s lives.

Where can I find a local marriage and relationship program?

Use this guide, developed by the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center, to identify a program near you. Additionally, you can consult this map to check out other fatherhood programs in your state or region, which can help with program coordination and sharing promising practices.

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