While co-parenting, or cooperative parenting, is the gold standard in terms of parenting after divorce, often, parents find that continuing conflict and strife increases tensions between parties, causing their children emotional turmoil. Most acrimonious situations tend to ease with time, yet not all divorces and/or separations lead to harmonious parenting, which may lead parents to feel as though they have failed at their most important job. If you find your family in that situation, you must find alternative ways to parent your children in the most effective manner.
For some, the answer is parallel parenting. Defined by Psychology Today as “an arrangement in which divorced parents are able to co-parent by means of disengaging from each other, and having limited direct contact,” this technique is finding popularity amongst those in situations where one or both of the parents are unable to communicate with each other in a respectful manner.
This style of parenting is best for those parents who 1) differ on styles of parenting; 2) differ on their perceptions of parenting; 3) continue to have contested issues in their parenting arrangement, including custody; and/or 4) are unable to communicate without causing undue stress on the other parent and/or the children.
How Parallel Parenting Works:
Parallel parenting allows the parents to assume decision-making responsibility in their respective homes and in their allotted time with the children. House rules or other rules set by one parent don’t necessarily apply during the other parent’s custodial time. For instance, if Sarah is at mom’s house, mom’s 10:00 p.m. curfew applies as opposed to the 11:00 p.m. curfew at dad’s house. Sporting events, school assemblies, church attendance, or any other child-related activities are attended separately by the parents. Necessary communications take place through a third party or a communication tool. While these measures do nothing to ensure consistency between homes, it does serve to protect kids from being vexed by their parents’ disagreements.
Pros of Parallel Parenting:
1. Little to no contact between parents.
2. Less parental conflict for kids to deal with.
3. Reduces stress for all parties, including children.
4. Allows children to maintain positive relationships with both parents.
5. Equal contributions by each parent.
Cons of Parallel Parenting:
1. Requires very specific parenting plans.
2. Possible frequent revisions of your parenting plan.
3. Requires some form of communication regarding the health, safety, and welfare of the kids.
4. No consistency between homes.
When Parallel Parenting, Do:
1. Be prepared to use a third party or a communication tool to share information with your ex. A communication notebook stating particulars of the child’s needs can be kept with the child’s belongings as they transfer between the homes.
2. When sharing information, state the facts without casting blame in any direction.
3. Communication between parents should only relate to children, not any other legal matters, including child support.
3. Let go of what happens in the other parent’s home unless you have concerns for your child’s health or safety.
4. Disclose your parenting arrangement to teachers, counselors, doctors, or other adults who will be a necessary part of making this arrangement work.
When Parallel Parenting, Don’t:
1. Don’t assume it’s a fix-all. You will still encounter difficulties in parenting with your ex. However, it should be less so.
2. Don’t use kids as a go-between.
3. Don’t try to solve problems going on in the other household. If your child has a complaint with dad, tell her to speak to her dad directly.
Parallel parenting is a means to allow the dust to settle and to allow emotions to ease, but co-parenting is still the goal. If you are involved in parallel parenting, it is recommended that you choose a point in the process where you attempt to come together to guarantee more consistency for your children. Realize that co-parenting works best when both parents are willing to understand that each parent is necessary for the happiness of the children and are able to interact with one another without being combative or causing stress. Keep striving for that objective.
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