Parallel Parenting – Benefits and Tips to Make It Successful

Separation or divorce is the final step to end a toxic relationship or marriage. But, when children are involved, the complete absence of communication becomes impossible, and before the couple realizes it, the bitterness from the past comes back up again in the form of arguments and fights.

It’s essential that children grow up forming a healthy bond with both parents – therefore, it becomes inevitable that the parents meet and interact. While being co-parents works for couples who are willing to put their differences behind for the sake of the children, parallel parenting is what some need to keep things tolerable.

What Is Parallel Parenting?

The definition of parallel parenting, according to Psychology Today, is an “arrangement where divorced parents are able to co-parent by means of disengaging from each other.” When the situation between the parents is hostile, parallel parenting minimizes the interaction between the two, so they are less likely to get on each other’s nerves when the children are around. It enables the two adults to parent in their own way, and detach from their ex at the same time. It is especially useful when dealing with a parallel parenting narcissist who refuses to be cooperative or reasonable, making a cordial relationship impossible.

Parallel Parenting vs. Co-Parenting

Although co-parenting and parallel parenting seems similar on the surface, they are completely different approaches to raising children after a divorce.

In a co-parenting situation, both the individuals have agreed to maintain civility and be fully committed to the plan, so that it can work. Co-parenting involves a significant amount of interaction between the parents, both in public and private places, to jointly participate in parenting commitments. A co-parenting plan is central to the process where a plan is drafted to keep both the parents on the same page and have them proactively engage in decision-making for the child’s benefit. The emphasis here is also to keep the possibility of conflict at a minimal while carrying out parenting duties.

Parallel parenting, on the other hand, is an approach that would work when one or both of the parents are absolutely unwilling to yield to the terms of co-parenting, or are in a state of constant conflict, and are unable to communicate. Parallel parenting is a method for parents to spend time independently with their children, minimize contact with their ex, and avoid harming children through conflicts. The ground rules for a parallel parenting plan is stricter, which is why parallel parenting is better than co-parenting, according to many experts. Developing a plan involves going to the court and have a judge establish the plan, based on the arguments and the evidence.

What Are the Benefits of Being a Parallel Parent?

If you are considering parallel parenting, here are the advantages to it:

1. Reduced Interference

Parallel parenting enables both parents to have their own parenting styles, without the interference of the other parent. They need not have to worry about explaining themselves, or why they allow the kids to do certain things and restrict others. Since there is no control over how the other person parents, there is also a need for more responsible parenting on both sides. The consequences of what happens to the child will have nothing to do with the other parent, and it is solely the responsibility of one. Therefore, it is essential to let go a little to make it work.

2. Reduced Stress

Almost all divorces that end with both the parents opting for parallel parenting involve major disagreements, and expose the children to the emotional turmoil of the conflict. Parallel parenting is primarily meant to shield children from the negative effects of the conflicts, and to facilitate a healthy and peaceful environment. Since there is minimal communication between the parents, the children are less exposed to the harshness of the conflict between their parents. This reduces stress for not only the parents, but also the children.

3. Minimal Interaction Between the Parents

One of the most important parallel parenting rules is that there is as little interaction between the parents as possible. Since the focus of parallel parenting is to lower direct contact between the parents to a bare minimum, it avoids stress for everyone. One or both parents are often anxious about inviting the other over to an important event, such as a birthday party. Parallel parenting sets the ground rules for such scenarios, and minimizes the possibilities of a meet. Important decisions are also made more maturely, and disagreements are handled in a mature way without dragging the children to the front lines.

4. Allows for Gradual Healing

The trauma of a bitter divorce takes many years to heal from, for some people. It affects not only the individuals, but also their families. Running into an ex frequently jeopardizes this healing process when children are involved. Parallel parenting can dampen this effect by keeping the parents away from each other, and yet stay involved in the lives of their children. The distance also avoids flare-ups that direct meets cause, and gives them time to respond proactively instead of reactively. Emails and text message communication keep things official, and stop emotional outbursts that could disturb the process of moving on.

How to Create a Parallel Parenting Plan

Here is a parallel parenting plan example on how it is done:

1. Decide how the time will be split with the children.

It’s important to clearly determine where the kids will spend their weekdays and their weekends. If they are with one parent on certain days, they have to be with the other on the rest. Vacations, holidays, and even birthday parties are best planned early, at the start of the year, to avoid conflict. Any changes to existing plans need to be made taking the full wellbeing of the child into consideration.

2. Decide on the precise time the child gets to spend with the parent.

The more detailed the plan, the better it is for all, as it leaves no room for confusion and no opportunity for manipulation. This also includes the exact pick-up and drop-off times for both parents. For example, if the children stay with the mother from 7 p.m Sunday to the school drop-off on Friday, they will be with their father until 7 p.m. Sunday.

3. Have a predetermined location for pick-ups and drop-offs.

Since the goal is to minimize communication between the parents, the children cannot be dropped at the parent’s house. It is ideal to pick a location such as a parking lot between both the homes, or a mutual friend or relative’s place. If the hostility is high, it becomes more important that there is a mutual friend or relative who is neutral and can aid in shuttling the children.

4. Determine how to handle cancellations.

Cancellations are bound to occur on both ends, so have a plan to handle the situation when it does happen. Have a clear plan about how they are going to make up for the time, and if they will. An example could be that the parent spends the extra day off at work with the child, or spend extra time during the vacation.

5. Have a plan to mitigate disputes.

Although the idea behind parallel parenting is to keep conflicts to a minimum, they would inevitably arise. A mediator appointed by the court is a good mediate to resolve conflicts. Instead of having back and forth with each other, an appointment can be filed with the mediator to work through the dispute.

Are There Any Disadvantages of Parallel Parenting?

The one major disadvantage of parallel parenting is conflicting parenting styles. Since each parent takes a decision without consulting with the other, children often get trapped in approaches that can be confusing. For example, if one parent wants the child home within the limits of eight in the evening, and the other parent allows them to stay out till ten p.m., it would create tension between the parenting styles of the two, and frustration for the child. Parents could also end up competing for time spent with the child, and end up focusing more on the quantity, rather than the quality, of time spent. Children can also be used as a weapon for a vindictive ex-spouse who is out to get the other. Therefore speaking negatively about the other person can also have serious relationship consequences.

These parallel parenting tips should give you an idea about what this approach entails. Although it seems similar to co-parenting, parallel parenting is quite different, with stricter and clearer ground rules. For more, you can always contact your counsellor, and look up parallel parenting resources online for detailed information.

Also Read:

Authoritarian Parenting
Permissive Parenting
Attachment Parenting