Divorce is life-changing; it can be emotionally and physically draining. The routine is changed, everyday life is different, and some couples cope better than others. It cannot be easy to adjust to a new way of doing things. Picking up the kids, cooking dinner, and cleaning the house are now responsibilities requiring extra planning.
Sometimes everything falls into place with two households instead of one. You're able to organize your schedules to share parenting responsibilities easily. Yet, this is not always the case. Conflict, resentment, and stress can throw well-thought-out plans into chaos. Divorce counseling is always a good start. It can help ease the transition from married to divorced and provide solutions for conflict and anger.\
Dealing with divorce is stressful, and when tempers flare, children suffer. Arguing, avoiding, and blaming are common, and sometimes children are the focus of the fighting. Sharing custody is the biggest decision a couple must make when going through a divorce. If a divorce is particularly nasty, sharing custody is not an easy thing to negotiate.
The best choice for any family going through a divorce reduces conflict and provides the most amicable solution. While parallel parenting may be perfect for one family, it may not be the best fit for another. Like other custody agreements, there are positive and negative sides to this parenting. However, it is sometimes the only option, and in some cases, parallel parenting is court-ordered.
What Is Parallel Parenting?
This parenting is all about maintaining separate households, sharing custody, and parenting with the parents' least amount of contact. In most cases, this means a parenting coordinator/mediator/court-appointed third party will help to set ground rules and negotiate between the couple if problems arise. Each parent maintains their own household, separate and distinct from the other parent. This can reduce the conflict between parents. While this may seem like a perfect set-up for the parents, it may not be the child's best outcome (ren).
This kind of parenting can be difficult, but in cases where amicable behavior is not an option, this may be the only way to move forward. This type of parenting works when both parties stick to the rules, pick up and drop off according to pre-determined times, and meet with the parenting coordinator to settle disputes. This kind of parenting gives each parent control over how the child is raised while caring.
How Parallel Parenting Works
This parenting is all about maintaining peace. Almost all parents' contact is done through email, or the mediator, with little to no face-to-face contact. Pick-up and drop-off times are negotiated. Once the times are set, both parties must stick to them. Each parent will have control over what the child eats, wears, and does while they are with that parent. Special events and any other activities that both parents may want to have to say over must be negotiated through the mediator.
Rules for behavior are set individually; it would be best if these rules were agreed to mutually. Parallel guardianship can be tailored and custom fit for each family. The parenting coordinator will do their best to assure fair and rational outcomes. Some couples insist on no face-to-face contact while other couples are more flexible; all of this is discussed with the coordinator.
It's All About The Child
The main concern of parents and courts is the mental well-being of the child. Parallel parenting is designed to ensure every child of divorce can have a healthy relationship with each parent. Here is a list of reasons a couple may opt for this parenting:
Effects of Divorce on Children
Parallel parenting is intended to reduce conflict between parents, which helps minimize the impact on the well-being of the child(ren) involved. In high-conflict divorces, opting for a parenting arrangement other than this kind of parenting could substantially affect the child(ren)'s social and academic performance. While the effects of divorce will vary by child, it is common to see a decline in academic performance during a divorce. This is largely due to being distracted by conflict and struggle at home. Other common effects of divorce on children include a decline in the child's social interaction. Children may begin to withdraw, losing interest in things they once enjoyed. They may also begin having difficulty relating to others and begin avoiding social interaction altogether.
A divorce with parental conflict may also impact a child's cognitive functioning. Children may become emotionally sensitive as a result of having difficulty processing their emotions. This may be exhibited by excessive anger and irritability. It's also important to understand that a divorce with high-conflict between parents without parallel parenting may have a physical impact on the involved child(ren). The physical effects of divorce are often the result of engaging in destructive or risky behavior, such as drug and alcohol use or having sex. Additionally, divorce's physical impact could manifest in other ways, such as getting sick more often, getting over illness more slowly, and even having difficulty sleeping.
Expected Behavior From Parents
This may seem like an unnecessary topic, but for many, a divorce situation coupled with shared parenting can create explosive emotions that are detrimental to the child, even if the child is not involved in the fighting. Below is a list of commonly expected behaviors for parallel parenting plans. It is meant to help parents control their impulses and stick to the plan.
No one is perfect. Problems will occur, but sticking to the plan and using the proper channels to address the problem will help keep conflict minimum, which is your child's needs. It is never easy to share parenting responsibilities and remain separate from decisions made by the other parent. Caring parents worry about their children, but remember, the conflict will hurt your child more than any perceived bad parenting decisions ever could.
Parallel Parenting Vs. Co-Parenting
These are two very different things. Co-parenting is done together. Parents get along, and their relationship during and after the divorce is amicable. Parallel parenting is done separately without input or contact from the other parent. Most parents want to co-parent; it is the healthiest way to raise a child after a divorce. However, not all parents can be co-parents, which is where parallel parenting comes into play.
Counseling - Therapy - Making The Best Choice
Sessions with a trained therapist can help all parties deal with divorce less destructively. Explosive emotions are a part of many divorces, and it cannot be easy to make the best decisions for the children. Getting counseling with a trained family therapist can help put the relationship in perspective. Therapy is great for any couple going through a divorce, but it is extremely helpful and constructive when there are children involved.
Listen to the counselor and try to be honest about how divorce is affecting the family dynamic. In some cases, one parent is not used to parenting alone; sometimes, one parent leaves all the major decisions up to the other parent. This type of situation can create a lot of conflicts and emotional upheaval. The best thing to do to prevent this is to seek counseling. The advice and guidance can be beneficial in helping reduce the negative effects seen in children of divorce. Divorce counseling can also help children cope with their emotions during and after the divorce process.
Parallel parenting tends to be a good option for high-conflict divorces where parents have difficulty communicating with one another amicably. With face-to-face interactions being a precarious situation with the potential for conflict, online counseling is an ideal solution for divorce counseling. Working with an online counselor eliminates the face-to-face interface that would be required with a traditional counseling appointment. Instead, parents can communicate with each other and the counselor in a virtual room. This can help parents progress in coming to terms with the best ways to parent their child(ren) and help them get through this transition to a two-household family. ReGain counselors have helped others as they have gone through divorces with children. Hear what others in similar situations have to say about their ReGain counselors below.
"Dr. Anstadt is amazing. I appreciate him always reaching out to make sure things are going smoothly in between our sessions. He follows up and genuinely cares about my situation. I would recommend Dr. Anstadt to anyone who is seeking insight on co-parenting and new relationships after divorce. Thank you for everything!"
"When we were matched with Alicia, I felt things were hopeless. Authorities had been involved; we'd been to emergency crisis family counseling. It was bad. I'm amazed. Alicia turned our situation around in just a few short days, and I'm hopeful for where our co-parenting relationship is headed. I wish I'd known how helpful someone like Alicia could be to help us be effective parents."
Going through a divorce can be a painful process, especially when you seem to be in constant conflict with your ex and children are involved. Parallel parenting is a solution to create peace in high-conflict divorces while a child continues to maintain a relationship with both parents. Navigating these waters can be stressful, but ReGain is here to help you create a parenting plan that works for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does parallel parenting mean?
Parenting is never easy; parenting after divorce isn’t any easier. But there are different parenting styles divorced parents can use to raise their children, making the transition easier for both the parents and the children. Parallel parenting is a parenting style that divorced or separated couples who aren’t on good terms will typically use. These parents have little or no contact with each other. If they do have contact, it is usually through messaging or a mediator. A parallel parenting arrangement can be difficult to manage. While the child is in one parent’s care, the other parent will have no say or input on their parenting decisions. The benefits of parallel parenting are to keep the peace, maintaining no contact between the parents to reduce conflict, while the child keeps relationships with both parents.
What is the difference between co-parenting and parallel parenting?
Co-parenting and parallel parenting are two different post-divorce parenting styles. Co-parenting is the healthier of the two, sharing custody and parenting time. The parents are typically still on good terms and want to raise the child together. They usually come to a parenting agreement, sharing decision-making regarding the child as a team. Parallel parenting after divorce focusing on maintaining separate households while sharing custody of the child. The child will spend time with each parent individually, never intersecting the two separate households. The parent will have full control over all decisions while the child is in their care. This style is sometimes necessary for divorced couples with conflict. The child maintains relationships with both parents, while the parents have little or no contact.
How do you parallel a parent with a narcissistic ex?
Parallel parenting with a narcissistic ex can be difficult, but there are ways to manage this and minimize conflict. It’s important to keep everything in writing, such as a parenting plan, to protect yourself as much as possible. Only communicate with your ex over email or text, so you always have a transcript of the conversation. When you do speak to your ex, try to be calm and unemotional. Only discuss the children and never your personal life. Refrain from using your children to relay messages between you. When your ex has custody of the children, give them time together and limit communication with the kids. Narcissists tend to use children as a tool of manipulation. If you are having difficulties parenting with a narcissistic ex, it may be better to limit all contact and use a mediator. Divorce is never easy. To better your emotional health, speak to a therapist for support. They can give you tools and guide you properly to manage parallel parenting after divorce the best you can.
What should be included in a parenting plan?
Parenting after divorce can be difficult, but a parenting plan can make the parents' transition and the children much easier. A parenting schedule is imperative and will help you plan out how the child will spend time between each parent. Holidays and vacation time are other important thing to consider ahead of time in a parenting plan. Decision-making, including healthcare, discipline, and schooling, are all things to consider in a parenting agreement to keep a healthy parenting relationship. Kids are expensive, so expenses such as tuition, food, clothing, and extracurricular activities should also be predetermined in a parenting plan. It may also be beneficial to include the best communication mode and how to plan for emergencies or schedule changes.
What does healthy co-parenting look like?
For divorced couples, co-parenting can be a learning curve, and it can take a lot of effort from both parties to grasp healthy co-parenting. The goal is to have the least amount of conflict and create a sense of normalcy for the child. Having clear boundaries with your ex is a great place to start. A parenting plan is extremely important in a healthy co-parent relationship, and it makes the transition seamless if done properly. Yet, life happens, and being flexible to accommodate each other's needs is also a good thing. Including each other in decision-making and being agreeable when it comes to decisions is another sign of healthy co-parenting. The children should think you get along great. It doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything or always have the same parenting view, but it is important to keep the child's conflict. Being able to attend school events together or other child life milestones is really important for healthy co-parenting. Realize you are both important people in the child’s life, and each serves a purpose.