Parallel Parenting

What is Parallel Parenting After Divorce?:

The definition of Parallel parenting is an arrangement in which divorced parents are able to co-parent by means of disengaging from each other, and having limited direct contact, in situations where they have demonstrated that they are unable to communicate with each other in a respectful manner. For high conflict families, parallel parenting provides an good opportunity for co-parenting, and although parents remain disengaged from each other they remain fully connected to their children.

In this arrangement, parents may assume decision-making responsibility in different domains.  This includes the concept of having one parent responsible for medical decisions and the other education decisions. More often than not, however, they agree on major decisions regarding children’s upbringing but separately decide the day-to-day parenting.

With parallel parenting in place, the passage of time allows the dust to settle between parents, to the point where parents achieve cooperative parenting from a place of initial disengagement.  When parents successfully parent within a parallel parenting arrangement and maintain their end of the parenting agreement, trust is restored and parents put aside their hostilities. Then a collaborative and cooperative parenting regime becomes established. Parallel parenting thus provides a foundation for cooperative parenting, as parents move from a place of disengagement toward more direct communication and negotiation.

Some of the benefits of parallel parenting include protecting children’s relationships with both parents while shielding them from parental conflict.  Although parallel parenting is not a panacea for high conflict, research studies indicate that it does protect children from being placed in the middle of parental conflict, and facilitates co-parenting in high conflict situations. It is not the presence of parental conflict as much as children’s direct exposure to that conflict which is harmful to them. Most important, parallel parenting makes clear that both parents are equally important in a child’s life regardless of the hostility and acrimony between them.

Here are five guidelines to help with parallel parenting:  

1.       All communication must be non-personal and business-like in nature and relate to information relevant to your children’s well-being.

2.       Parents never use their children as messengers to communicate back and forth.

3.       No changes to the schedule are made without written agreement.

4.       No personal information is shared with the other parent in any form.

5.       To minimize conflict, schedules are shared via a calendar or in writing.  

In other words, parallel parenting allows parents to remain disengaged with one another while they remain close to their children. For instance, they remain committed to making responsible decisions (medical, education, etc) but decide on the logistics of day-to-day parenting separately. Parallel parenting allows the dust to settle in high conflict situations and may lay the groundwork for co-parenting if parents can put aside their hostilities and grievances. Ultimately, both parallel parenting and co-parenting can benefit kids if parents consider what’s in their children’s best interests.  

What are benefits of co-parenting and parallel parenting for kids?

The five benefits are that children will:  

1.       Feel a sense of security. Children who maintain a close bond with both parents and are more likely to have higher self-esteem.

2.       Have better psychological adjustment into adulthoodMy research showed that adults raised in divorced families report higher self-esteem and fewer trust issues if they had close to equal time with both parents.

3.       Most likely grow up with a healthier template for seeing their parents cooperate. This is true even if they practice parallel parenting and are disengaged as long as they are respectful.

4.       Foster good communication skills. By cooperating with their other parent, you establish a life pattern of healthy relating that can carry your children into their future. This includes graduations, weddings, and family events.

5.       Have better problem-solving skills. Children and adolescents who witness their parents cooperate are more likely to learn how to effectively resolve problems themselves.

The key to successful co-parenting and parallel parenting after divorce is to keep the focus on your children – and to maintain a cordial relationship with your ex-spouse. Most importantly, you want your children to see that their parents are working together for their well-being. Never use them as messengers because when you ask them to tell their other parent something for you, it can make them feel stuck in the middle. It’s best to communicate directly with your ex and lessen the chances your children will experience divided loyalty.  

CALL Cornerstone at 805-390-6384 for more details.

 



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