What is parallel parenting and how does it differ from co-parenting?

Originally published on 26th July 2021 at 11:54 AM
Reading time: 3 mins

Do you find even the most basic conversations with your ex-partner about childcare arrangements a nightmare? Do you have anxiety every time you need to raise a topic concerning your children with your ex? If so... You need to consider parallel parenting . It's a game-changer!

What is parallel parenting?

Parallel parenting is a unique arrangement that can be a consciously made decision or simply fallen into by circumstance. It is when two parents who are unable to communicate with each other in a respectful way can co-parent effectively by disengaging from one another and having very formal or limited contact.

Children need a relationship with both parents even when their parents' relationship ends. If there is still anger, grief, hurt or resentment then the regular communication that parenting needs can become toxic, negative and lets be honest just too hard to do. The kids do not need to see you yelling, shouting or having a door slammed in your face. Parallel parenting minimises the interaction between you and your ex, but allows you to choose for yourself how to parent when the kids are with you.

Does it work?

Yes! It does. There have been numerous success stories and as time passes wounds can heal, resentment can fade and communication can become focused on your precious kids. Not to mention the benefits for your own mental health.

How does it differ from co-parenting?

Co-parenting is a form of parenting that involves joint problem solving with your children's best interests at the heart of every parenting discussion. It is based on the common goal of raising your children to the best of your ability putting personal grievances and emotions to the side. It is so important to be clear that this style of post-separation parenting can only be achieved if both are committed to this aim. Often it is only one parent that can get past the hurt and focus on the children. If you are recently out of a relationship with an emotionally abusive ex, parallel parenting is most likely a healthier choice than co-parenting. Don't think parallel parenting is inferior because it can absolutely be the right choice.

What are the benefits of parallel parenting?

The superior benefit is that … if you are unable to co-parent because of either your ex's unwillingness to communicate without hostility or you simply can no longer be in the same room, you can still both maintain a meaningful relationship with your children and shield them from as much conflict as possible. This strategy is unique but effective when tension and emotions run high. It is about neutralising the battlefield.

How to create a parallel parenting plan in five steps

Step 1: Determine your agreed plan of where the kids will be between your households.

Set up a diary that clearly shows where they will be sleeping for their routine of school and also determine holidays and celebrations. (Our co-parenting app can help with this).

Step 2: Determine the boundaries of start and finish times and how they will be dropped off and collected.

Be specific as to times to avoid confusion.

Step 3: Establish the location of drop off and collections.

To minimise communication at drop off and collections, choose neutral places or places where the children feel comfortable to switch cars. Remember they will have clothing and possessions to manage as well.

Step 4: Have a plan for cancellations or changes.

These will happen for all sorts of reasons and you should both be clear of the way to address this. Also, be very clear if cancelled time can be made up at a later date and when.

Step 5: Have an agreed way to handle any disputes that may arise.

No plan is 100% perfect so if you find yourself being drawn into a hostile conversation shut it down and seek professional help. We offer one-hour coaching to help resolve any conflict.

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