Parallel Parenting – After a separation or divorce, parents can sometimes parallel parent. Children can experience different parenting practices from one parent to another. We explore what is parallel parenting and the pros and cons of it. Sometimes, parallel parenting is the only option to keep the peace and express yourself as a parent freely.

What is parallel parenting

Parallel parenting is a co-parenting approach typically used in high-conflict situations where divorced or separated parents have difficulty communicating and cooperating with each other. It’s an alternative to traditional co-parenting, which involves ongoing communication and collaboration between parents for the benefit of their children.

In parallel parenting:

  1. Limited Communication: The key feature of parallel parenting is minimal direct communication between the parents. Instead of interacting with each other, they primarily communicate through written messages, email, or a co-parenting app. This reduces the potential for conflict. Additionally, it allows both parents to focus on their responsibilities without the emotional stress of direct contact.
  2. Clearly Defined Roles: Each parent has clearly defined responsibilities and expectations when it comes to parenting. This can include specific schedules, pick-up and drop-off arrangements, and division of decision-making authority over certain aspects of the child’s life.
  3. Disengagement: Overall, parallel parenting encourages a disengagement from each other’s personal lives and differences. They are focusing solely on the well-being of the child. This means that disagreements or disputes between the parents are not played out in front of the child. They are helping to shield the child from the conflict.
  4. Minimal Interference: Parents are encouraged not to interfere with each other’s parenting time or decision-making. Alternatively, they can if it is a matter of child safety or well-being. Any concerns or disputes are typically addressed through mediation, legal channels, or with the help of a professional, such as a therapist or counselor.

Parallel parenting is often considered a last resort. This happens when traditional co-parenting approaches are unworkable. Unfortunately, this is due to ongoing conflict and hostility between the parents. While it may reduce direct conflict between parents. It can also result in reduced communication, which may not be ideal for the child’s development in the long term. It’s essential that the child’s best interests are continually prioritized, and in some cases, therapeutic interventions or counseling may be necessary to help the child cope with the challenges of parallel parenting.

What is the difference between co parenting and parallel parenting

Co-parenting and parallel parenting are two different approaches to parenting after separation or divorce. This is primarily used when parents are unable to maintain a cooperative and communicative relationship. Here are the key differences between the two:


  • Co-Parenting: Co-parenting involves open and ongoing communication between both parents. They work together to make decisions about their children’s upbringing. Secondly, they share information about their child’s well-being, and often collaborate on scheduling and important life events.
  • Parallel Parenting: Parallel parenting, on the other hand, minimizes direct communication between parents. Communication is typically limited to essential matters related to the child’s care. Additionally, it often occurs through written messages, email, or a co-parenting app. The goal is to reduce conflict by reducing direct contact.

Parental Cooperation:

  • Co-Parenting: Co-parents actively cooperate and make joint decisions about their child’s upbringing. They aim to work together as a team, attend events together, and present a unified front for the child’s benefit.
  • Parallel Parenting: In parallel parenting, cooperation is limited. Each parent has clearly defined roles and responsibilities, and they largely act independently of each other. They may have separate parenting schedules and may not attend events together.

Conflict Management:

  • Co-Parenting: Co-parenting focuses on conflict resolution and problem-solving through communication and collaboration. Parents are encouraged to find common ground and address disputes directly.
  • Parallel Parenting: Parallel parenting is designed to minimize conflict. It acknowledges that some parents are unable to resolve their differences.
  • it limits interaction to reduce the potential for disputes. Conflict is often managed through mediation or legal channels.

Child’s Experience:

  • Co-Parenting: Co-parenting aims to provide a more stable and cooperative environment for the child. The child sees their parents working together and communicating effectively, which can be beneficial for their emotional well-being.
  • Parallel Parenting: Parallel parenting may result in reduced conflict between parents, which can be less stressful for the child. However, it can also mean reduced communication and a lack of a unified front. This can have its own challenges for the child.

Long-Term Goals:

  • Co-Parenting: Co-parenting is often seen as a long-term solution that encourages parents to maintain a cooperative relationship. This is for the sake of their child’s development and well-being.
  • Parallel Parenting: Parallel parenting is typically considered a short- to medium-term strategy. This is often used in situations of high conflict. Parents need time and space to work on their individual issues before potentially transitioning to a more cooperative co-parenting approach.

Both co-parenting and parallel parenting have their pros and cons. The choice between them depends on the specific circumstances and the ability of the parents to communicate and cooperate effectively. In either case, the child’s best interests should remain the primary focus.

How can parallel parenting affect the child?

Parallel parenting, while often used as a strategy to reduce conflict between parents in high-conflict situations, can have both positive and negative effects on the child involved. Here are some ways in which parallel parenting can affect the child:

Positive Effects:

  1. Reduced Exposure to Conflict: Firstly, parallel parenting can provide a buffer for the child by limiting direct interaction between the parents. This can reduce the child’s exposure to the ongoing conflict and hostility that may have been prevalent in a co-parenting situation. Lastly, lower conflict levels can lead to decreased stress and anxiety for the child.
  2. Emotional Stability: In cases where co-parenting is extremely contentious, parallel parenting can offer a more stable and predictable environment for the child. Knowing that each parent has their own set of responsibilities and boundaries may provide a sense of security.
  3. Clear Boundaries: Parallel parenting often involves clearly defined roles and responsibilities for each parent. This can help the child understand what to expect from each parent. Additionally, it is reducing confusion and potential manipulation by one parent against the other.
  4. Child Safety: In situations where one parent poses a risk to the child’s safety or well-being, parallel parenting can provide a level of protection. With limited communication and interaction, it may be easier to enforce safety measures and court orders.

Negative Effects:

  1. Reduced Parental Involvement: Parallel parenting can sometimes result in reduced involvement from one or both parents. Because communication is minimal, parents may become less aware of the child’s day-to-day life, activities, and needs.
  2. Lack of Unified Front: In parallel parenting, parents often make decisions independently. This can lead to inconsistencies in parenting styles and rules between households. This lack of a unified front may be confusing or frustrating for the child.
  3. Emotional Impact: Even though parallel parenting may reduce immediate conflict, the child can still experience emotional distress from the ongoing tension between parents. Children may internalize the conflict, feel torn between their parents, or experience loyalty conflicts.
  4. Impact on Future Relationships: Growing up in a parallel parenting situation where parents do not communicate or cooperate can model unhealthy relationship dynamics for the child. This may affect their own ability to form healthy relationships later in life.
  5. Limited Coping Skills: When parents do not model effective conflict resolution and communication skills, children may not develop these crucial life skills. This can impact their ability to navigate relationships and conflicts as they grow older.

It’s important to note that the effects of parallel parenting on a child can vary widely depending on the specific circumstances and how well the parents manage the situation. Ideally, any parallel parenting arrangement should be monitored and evaluated to ensure that it is in the best interests of the child. In some cases, therapy or counseling for the child may be beneficial to help them cope with the challenges associated with parallel parenting. Additionally, over time, some families may transition from parallel parenting to a more cooperative co-parenting arrangement if circumstances improve.

Can parallel parenting be considered healthy for the kids?

Parallel parenting can be a healthier option for children in certain high-conflict situations. This is compared to traditional co-parenting where conflict between parents is constant and intense. In such cases, parallel parenting may provide several benefits:

Reduced Exposure to Conflict:

Parallel parenting minimizes direct communication between parents, which can significantly reduce the child’s exposure to ongoing conflict and hostility. This reduced exposure can lead to a more peaceful and less stressful environment for the child.

Emotional Stability:

In situations where co-parenting is extremely contentious and hostile, parallel parenting can offer a more stable and predictable environment for the child. Additionally, knowing that each parent has their own set of responsibilities and boundaries may provide a sense of security.

Clear Boundaries:

All in all, parallel parenting often involves clearly defined roles and responsibilities for each parent. This can help the child understand what to expect from each parent, reducing confusion and potential manipulation by one parent against the other.

Child Safety:

Firstly, in cases where one parent poses a risk to the child’s safety or well-being, parallel parenting can provide a level of protection. With limited communication and interaction, it may be easier to enforce safety measures and court orders.

However, it’s important to recognize that while parallel parenting can have its advantages in high-conflict situations, it may not be the best long-term solution for all children. There are potential downsides and limitations to parallel parenting, including reduced parental involvement, the lack of a unified front, and potential emotional impacts on the child.

Appropriate Parallel Parenting

Ultimately, the appropriateness of parallel parenting depends on the specific circumstances and the child’s well-being. It should be considered as a temporary solution while parents work on improving their ability to co-parent effectively, especially if the goal is to create a healthier and more cooperative environment for the child in the long run. Parallel parenting should be evaluated regularly, and if conditions improve, transitioning to a more cooperative co-parenting arrangement may be in the child’s best interest. The primary concern should always be the child’s physical and emotional well-being, and parents should seek professional guidance if necessary to ensure the child’s needs are met.

Boundaries to set when parallel parenting

Setting clear and well-defined boundaries is crucial when implementing a parallel parenting arrangement to ensure that both parents understand their roles and responsibilities, minimize conflict, and prioritize the well-being of the child. Here are some important boundaries to consider:

Communication Boundaries:

  • Limit communication to essential matters related to the child’s well-being, such as logistics, health, education, and extracurricular activities.
  • Use written communication, such as email, text messages, or a co-parenting app, to document discussions and reduce the risk of miscommunication.

Scheduling and Logistics:

  • Clearly define the parenting schedule, including pick-up and drop-off times and locations.
  • Establish protocols for handling schedule changes, emergencies, and holidays.
  • Use a shared calendar or scheduling tool to track parenting time and important dates.

Decision-Making Boundaries:

  • Specify which decisions require joint input and which can be made independently by each parent.
  • Identify areas where one parent has sole decision-making authority (e.g., medical decisions, school choice) to prevent conflicts over specific issues.

Conflict Resolution:

  • Overall, determine how conflicts or disputes will be addressed. Consider using a mediator or a parenting coordinator to help resolve disagreements.
  • Agree not to involve the child in adult conflicts or use the child as a messenger between parents.

Household Rules and Consistency:

  • Respect each parent’s household rules and routines. Recognize that the rules may differ between households, but they should still be reasonable and consistent within each home.
  • Avoid undermining the other parent’s authority or criticizing their parenting choices in front of the child.

Child’s Well-Being:

  • Always prioritize the child’s best interests and well-being in decision-making and interactions.
  • Share important information about the child’s health, school, and emotional needs with the other parent, ensuring that both parents are informed and involved.

Personal Boundaries:

  • Respect each other’s privacy and personal lives. Avoid intrusive questioning or interference in each other’s personal affairs.
  • Focus on parenting responsibilities and refrain from discussing personal grievances or past conflicts.

Technology and Social Media:

  • Be cautious about sharing information about the child on social media. Discuss what, if any, guidelines should be followed regarding posting photos or information related to the child.
  • Ensure that both parents have access to relevant digital information and records, such as school portals or medical records.

Emergency Contacts and Information:

  • Maintain a list of emergency contacts for the child in both households.
  • Share important documents and information, such as the child’s birth certificate, social security number, and medical insurance details.

Enforceable Boundaries:

  • Consider legal documentation, such as a parenting plan or court order, to outline and enforce these boundaries if necessary.
  • Be prepared to involve legal authorities or mediators if boundaries are consistently violated.

Remember that the specific boundaries in a parallel parenting arrangement should be tailored to the unique needs and circumstances of the family. It’s important for both parents to have a clear understanding of these boundaries, and they should be willing to revisit and modify them if necessary to ensure they continue to serve the child’s best interests. Additionally, the involvement of a mediator or therapist can be valuable in helping parents establish and maintain these boundaries effectively.

How parallel parents can communicate effectively

Parallel parenting is a co-parenting approach often used in high-conflict situations where divorced or separated parents have limited communication and cooperation due to ongoing disputes or animosity. Effective communication is essential for parallel parenting to ensure the well-being of the children involved. Here are some tips on how parallel parents can communicate effectively:

Use Written Communication:

Email or text messages can be less emotionally charged than face-to-face or phone conversations. Stick to a business-like tone and focus on the children’s needs and issues rather than personal matters.

Create a Communication Plan:

Establish clear guidelines for communication, including the preferred method, frequency, and the topics that should be discussed. Having a structured plan can reduce the chances of misunderstandings and conflicts.

Be Specific and Concise:

Keep your messages brief and to the point. Avoid lengthy explanations or bringing up past grievances. Stick to the facts and relevant information.

Stay Child-Centered:

Always prioritize the best interests of the children. Discuss their school, health, and extracurricular activities, and avoid involving them in adult conflicts or using them as messengers.

Use Neutral Language:

Avoid inflammatory or accusatory language. Focus on being neutral and non-confrontational in your communication. Refrain from making negative comments about the other parent.

Maintain Boundaries

Clearly define boundaries and expectations for your communication. Do not share personal or unrelated information, and respect each other’s privacy.

Set Regular Check-Ins

Establish a schedule for regular check-ins to discuss important issues regarding the children. Stick to this schedule to ensure that necessary conversations take place.

Consider Using Co-Parenting Apps

Co-parenting apps and platforms can help facilitate communication and provide a record of interactions. Lastly, some apps even offer features like shared calendars and expense tracking.

Use Mediation or Professional Assistance

Firstly, if communication remains challenging, consider involving a mediator or a co-parenting counselor. They can help facilitate discussions and provide guidance on effective communication strategies.

Stay Flexible

Be open to adjustments in your communication plan as circumstances change. Flexibility can help accommodate your children’s evolving needs and minimize conflicts.

Keep Emotions in Check

It’s essential to manage your emotions when communicating with the other parent. If you find yourself getting upset, take a step back and revisit the conversation when you are calmer.

Document Everything

Keep records of all communications, especially if there are disputes or disagreements. This can be useful in case legal issues arise.

Respect Court Orders

Overall, follow any court-ordered agreements or custody arrangements. Disregarding these orders can lead to legal consequences and additional conflicts.

Remember that parallel parenting is designed to minimize conflict and create a stable environment for the children. Effective communication is key to achieving this goal, even when parents are not on amicable terms. Finally, focusing on the children’s well-being, maintaining boundaries, and using clear, respectful communication, parallel parents can work together to provide a positive co-parenting experience for their children.