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What is Partnering and how can it help me and my child?

Partnering is a compassionate behavioural change model developed by Suzanne Alderson to support her daughter through mental illness. At a time when connection is needed more than ever, you and your child are likely to struggle to find a common language. And without that, it is difficult to understand what your child may be feeling, why they may be reacting in a certain way and how best to support them. 

Partnering is about you and how you can change your behaviour to help you, your child and your family make sense of this new and extraordinary time.

There are 3 stages to Partnering: Step Down, Stand Beside and Travel Together.

Step Down

Stepping down is a brave move. It demands that you confront the reality of your situation and that enforcing your authority is having an impact on your connection with your child at a time when you that bond needs understanding, compassion and nurture. It asks you to set aside your parental need to be right and the need to have all the answers and it will challenge you personally – you’ll probably feel a range of emotions from blame, guilt, anger, despair and desperation. You’ll question yourself about whether you’re doing the right thing. You’ll likely flip between believing this is the right thing and previous behaviours. You’ll second guess yourself and wonder if you’re doing the right thing. And that’s all normal. Stepping down means saying you don’t have all the answers (and that’s ok) that you don’t have the authority over your child’s illness and you can’t fix this – but you can influence 

 Stand beside

Standing beside your child is a true gift you can give them. By becoming a shield and protector as they explore what is and isn’t possible, you release some of the pressure on them. When you stand beside your child, you remove obligation and assumption and get used to the new way of being. Your child’s mental health may not allow them to respond in the way you would like or expect, so setting aside your expectations of behaviours, responses and outcomes is a powerful step that validates your child’s experience and leads to acceptance. Standing beside our child can feel strange at first. The shock of your child’s mental health condition may have worn off and you may fall back into the expectations of life before poor mental health. You might not like what you’re going through, but understand that the space you’re carving out will allow you and your child to make sense of what is happening together, create a new and close bond and begin to heal.

Travel Together

Travelling together is an opportunity for your child to uncover and understand what they need and want and for you to support them as they explore what they need, who they are and where they might want to go as a result of their mental illness. The journey of mental illness is uncharted, but by travelling together, you’re able to share and explore the things that work for your child – and the things that don’t. This is a time of discovery – a time where fits and starts are normal and changing direction is to expected. Travelling together is about progress, not perfection. But progress might not look like you expected so it’s important to continue to remove assumptions and expectations and be open to the beauty in whatever your child finds joy, distraction or challenge in. Travelling together will take you to places you might never have considered, both for you and your child.

Never Let Go by Suzanne Alderson Book on table

Find out more about Partnering in the book, Never Let Go.

Suzanne Alderson, Founder of Parenting Mental Health, shares her experiences helping her daughter to a resilient recovery. With chapters on Suzanne’s new method, Partnering not Parenting, as well as why self-care is essential for parents, how to navigate relationships with partners, friends, and family and practical advice on solutions to everyday problems such as sleep, exercise, food and home environment, Never Let Go is full of lived experience, compassion and hope.

Find our more information on the book here.

Want to learn more about Partnering?


Why not join one of our courses? We run regular courses on Partnering that include self study or supported versions with regular coaching sessions. Suzanne Alderson also offers 1-1 and group mentoring for parents. 

For more information on self study or our 6 week Partnering course, click here.  For more information on 1-1 and group mentoring, please email us for more information. And check our Events calendar for upcoming free sessions on Partnering.