Parallel Parenting

In a previous post, we discussed the merit of co-parenting. In co-parenting arrangements, separated or divorced parents continue to work together to raise their children. Co-parents are able to easily discuss their child’s best interests, amicably chose where their children will spend major holidays, and often they can celebrate major events or share casual encounters with one another. Should this type of arrangement be possible for your family, it can be incredibly beneficial for children to see their parents get along.

However, for some, this degree of cordial interaction isn’t possible. Whether you had experienced an abusive marriage, cannot agree on the terms of raising your child, or simply don’t get along, you may need to approach a more secluded type of parenting. Although initially this may seem harmful to raising a child, strong infrequent communication is much more beneficial to the family unit than frequent argumentative meetings.

Here are our tips for how to successfully parallel parent your child after divorce.

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Set out major lifestyle decisions in the separation agreement

Parallel parenting is known for it’s uniquely “hands-off” approach when it comes to parenting styles. As this arrangement is designed to be conflict-free and communication-limited, spouse’s will have to agree not to nit pick one another’s parenting choices. The only decisions that require collaboration should, in large part, be identified in the separation agreement. These major parenting decisions include religion, institution of education, and healthcare. Parents cannot dispute these decisions without an additional court visit, and all other parenting decisions are made individually, without consulting one another.

End all emotional communication

In order to minimize communication and conflict, any exchanges with your ex should be purely business. Schedules, pick ups, and drop offs may need to be arranged, but your emotions, anger and frustration isn’t part of these discussions. Bringing up old qualms in your communication with your ex defies the purpose of parallel parenting: separate, isolated and individual parenting which collides only when logistic pick up and drop off conversations must be had. If you commit to this parenting style with your ex, don’t let these petty arguments seep into your very limited conversations.

Keep over the phone and in person- meetings to a bare minimum

The preferred method of communication for parallel parents is email, or shared calendars. This eliminates the need to pick up the phone or interact in person. The benefit of this online exchange is that your children will never be privy to the arguments which resulted in your separation. Reserve phone calls and in person meetings for emergency situations and last minute alterations. With a strictly online conversation, your children are only aware of a well-run parenting agreement, opposed to bickering and anger.

Let go of your ex’s parenting style

This may be the hardest aspect of parallel parenting for ex spouses. As you’ve decided to abide by individual parenting styles, parallel-parents do not share or critique one another’s house rules. This means that bedtimes, snacks, study habits and chores follow a “my house, my rules” mentality. To remain level headed, do not prod your ex about these habits, and don’t encourage your child to share such details with you. If you want a say in these decisions - it must be established in the separation agreement, and not via email, phone call, or in person meeting.

Intervene only in the case of safety concerns

Your house, your rules. You must respect your ex-spouse and allow them to raise your child with their unique house rules, even if they aren’t the same rules you chose to enforce. If you chose parallel parenting, you have to agree that you both have the child’s best interest at heart. The only situation when you should intervene in the other spouse’s relationship with your child is when you suspect physical, sexual or emotional abuse of any kind. In these cases, contact law enforcement and/or your local Children’s Aid Society for support and professional intervention.

Chose a neutral drop off and pick up location

Parallel parenting is centred on minimal conflict, and consequently minimal interaction between parents. Independent parenting is possible, however it’s hard to ignore each other’s habits if you pick up and drop off your child at each other’s residences. Chose neutral zones to negate conflicts, such as a school, playground, or conveniently located public facility. If you’re able to avoid running into one another, try to do so.

Leave your children out of the conflict, and reassure them they’re loved

As with any parenting style, there are flaws to parallel parenting. Keep in mind the purpose of this parenting style: allowing your children to be raised and loved by two parents, by exposing your child to as few disputes as possible. When you feel the urge to leave an angry message, lash out, or hash up old disagreements, remember the person you’re truly hurting is your child. Remind your child that you love them, as does your ex spouse, and that you will continue to work with your ex to give your child a comfortable, happy, healthy life.

Every divorce is unique, as is every family and each parenting style. Parallel parenting is designed with minimal conflict and initial interaction in mind, while continuing to encourage relationships between each parent and their child. Should you opt for this type of segregated parenting, make sure you have a strong support system in place, of family, friends, and care takers.