Living “happily ever after” is a great thing. But sometimes, even the most romantic relationships may come to a sad end. And although co-parenting is often a preferred parenting arrangement for separated parents, constant yelling and shouting matches between co-parents can negatively affect the children.
In such a situation, parallel parenting might be a better choice. But what is parallel parenting exactly? Is it the same as solo parenting or single parenting? How does it differ from co-parenting? What are the benefits and drawbacks of parallel parenting?
Keep reading, as this article provides answers to these and more questions. Plus, you’ll learn how to start parallel parenting if you decide that the parenting model is best for your family at this time.
What Is Parallel Parenting?
Parallel parenting is a parenting model whereby separated or divorced parents who don’t want to maintain constant contact with each other share joint legal custody of their children but have independent parenting methods.
The parenting arrangement is usually common in high-conflict separations, where both parents only have limited interactions to avoid further conflict. Although the former partners no longer have to be involved in each other’s lives, the parenting arrangement allows them to be involved in their child’s life.
While each parent establishes their preferred parenting methods, they usually collaborate on major decisions that affect the child, such as medical care and schooling.
In many cases, parallel parenting gives both parents enough time for things to settle after a divorce or separation. It is not out of place for things to morph into co-parenting after a while, but this isn’t always the case.
Co-Parenting, Parallel Parenting, Single Parenting, and Solo Parenting: What’s the Difference?
The various types of parenting arrangements can be a bit confusing sometimes. Here’s a quick rundown of what they mean.
Co Parenting Plan
Co-parenting refers to divorced or separated parents who share custody of a child. The parental arrangement is usually for parents who are friendly with each other, even after divorce or separation.
Parallel Parenting Plans
Parallel parenting arrangements are usually for separated or divorced parents who are not on amicable terms. It refers to a parenting method where high conflict parents raise children separately, using independent parenting styles, and the parents only have limited communication. A parallel parenting situation is what this article is all about.
Single Parenting Plan
Single parenting refers to a single parent taking full parental responsibility for their child’s upbringing. Being a single parent is often the choice of the individual involved.
Solo Parenting Plan
Solo parenting has pretty much the same definition as single parenting. A solo parent is primarily raising a child or children on their own.
However, unlike single parents, many solo parents aren’t in their situation as a matter of choice. In other words, they are not bringing up kids by themselves because they want to. Their partners may be unavoidably absent for a long time due to the nature of their work, like in the case of some military families.
Advantages of Parallel Parenting
People who ask, “What is parallel parenting?” often want to know the advantages of the parenting arrangement so that they can decide if it is worth a shot.
If your marriage or relationship seems to be beyond salvaging, you might find the following parallel parenting benefits worth considering:
- One of the major benefits of parallel parenting is that it prevents kids from being exposed to unending arguments and other types of conflicts. This protects your child’s emotional and mental wellbeing. Also, children may feel safer and more secure when shielded from conflicts. The arrangement may even help kids cope better with a separation or divorce.
- Due to limited communication and interaction in a parallel parenting setup, there is less risk of a flare-up. This significantly reduces the likelihood of one parent violating a court order and denying the other parent time with the kids.
- In some cases, time apart can potentially heal wounds and even bring about co-parenting.
Downsides of Parallel Parenting
While parallel parenting might be a viable option in certain situations, it might not be in the best interest of children in some cases.
First, the parenting arrangement may leave some kids confused, particularly if the parents have conflicting rules. More direct children may challenge a parent whose rules don’t permit something the other parent allows. This can lead to one parent faulting the other’s instructions.
On the other hand, timid kids may not know what is right and wrong or what is and isn’t allowed.
Secondly, a child raised in this type of environment will hardly see the parents together and may eventually start to view them as rivals. This may indirectly force the child to take sides or feel pressured to do so.
Besides the potential negative effect on the child, parallel parenting may also make each parent less willing to adjust or compromise their parenting styles, even if the child is on the receiving end of their decisions.
Thankfully, parallel parenting isn’t necessarily designed to last forever. In other words, the arrangement can give both parents time to reflect and eventually get back to co-parenting or even living as a family again in the future.
However, this is not always the case, and there is really no need to pressure yourself into making amends or making things work if you truly don’t want to get back with your co-parent.
When to Consider Parallel Parenting
It is in your child’s best interest to avoid tension in the family. In other words, you might want to consider parallel parenting if there is high conflict in your relationship. The goal is to minimize the risk of exposing your child to conflict.
If there is a history of domestic violence in your relationship before or even after separation or divorce, you might want to switch from co-parenting to parallel parenting. This parenting arrangement will limit in-person communication between both parents and protect your child from constantly witnessing unhealthy arguments.
Also, conflict in a relationship might include one parent showing narcissistic personality traits. A parallel parenting model might be the best option in this case.
However, this type of parenting arrangement won’t protect the child in all types of family conflicts. For example, the arrangement is not suitable when one parent is emotionally or physically abusive to the child. In this case, the non-abusive parent should have primary or sole custody, depending on the severity and nature of the abuse.
How to Create a Parallel Parenting Plan
Typically, a child custody lawyer or divorce attorney will help you create a parallel parenting plan during your separation. It can also be done after a divorce if the conflict between the parents becomes too frequent.
Here’s what you should include in a parallel parenting plan:
- Parenting time for each parent
- How and where the child or children will move between parents
- Specific schedules for vacations and holidays (remember to include what to do if holiday or vacation dates conflict)
- Communication rules (usually via a third party)
- What to do when one parent reschedules or cancels parenting time
- How to reach decisions about kids’ schooling, medical care, and extra-curricular activities
Conflict in front of your children is never a healthy thing. If living or regular meeting with your ex-spouse tends to degenerate into shouting matches, you might be better off with a parallel parenting arrangement.