Parallel Parenting Vs. Co-Parenting

Divorce settlements often deal with custody disagreements, separation of finances/assets, and other challenges. But divorced parents have an important question to answer once they have finally separated: what is the best way to raise our child? When it comes to parallel parenting vs. co-parenting, it can be challenging to decide which approach works best for you.

Parallel parenting is a parenting approach where each parent will raise their child according to their own rules and guidelines. There is limited communication between parents confined to necessary interactions only. Co-parenting is a method where parents work together to raise their children in a stable and healthy environment, albeit under 2 roofs.

It’s essential to agree on how to raise your children now that you’re separated. If you want to know which parenting approach suits you and your parenting partner, then you’re in luck. Our simple guide to parallel vs. co-parenting will explain how each method works and help you decide which approach is best for you and your ex-partner.

Vector image of parents hands handing off child for parenting

Related Reading: Co-Parenting with An Uncooperative Ex-Spouse

Parallel Parenting Vs. Co-Parenting: What’s The Best Approach?

Choosing a parenting style can be challenging for divorced parents. Most parents would choose to implement parallel parenting when raising their children if the divorce was because of irreconcilable differences within the marriage; particularly if those differences centered on disagreements regarding parenting styles. But is this the best approach?

What Is Co-Parenting?

Going through a divorce doesn’t mean putting your child second. Parents who are divorced and have children often want to maintain stability for their children, regardless of their living circumstances and arrangements. That’s where co-parenting comes in.

Co-parenting is a collaborative and cohesive parenting style that requires work and dedication from both parents. The parents work together to raise their children in the same way, separately, and each will have to compromise to meet their child’s needs.

Co-parenting is often an agreed-upon arrangement between parents to have an open line of communication when it comes to their children. It’s also a way for parents to ease the transition through divorce and adjust more quickly when living in two separate homes.

Parents who opt for co-parenting methods become a parenting team with boundaries and guidelines to help them navigate their child’s upbringing without disrupting everyday life.

Close up of 4 different hands stacked on top of each other to show importance of family support

Co-parenting is also an excellent way to work on your relationship with your child. Rather than driving a wedge between you – or the other parent – and your child, co-parenting allows children to have a healthy and positive relationship with both parents without feeling guilty.

What Is Parallel Parenting?

Parallel parenting is a parenting style that starkly contrasts co-parenting. This parenting style is an approach to raising children where each parent has their own set of rules and guidelines for their child. These parents often have vastly different parenting and disciplinary techniques.

Similarly, parents who choose parallel parenting don’t have much communication with one another. Instead, they choose to communicate only about their children, and rarely face-to-face. They often text, email, or call one another to discuss their children only.

Unlike co-parenting, this approach focuses more on the individual parent’s needs than the needs of the children. Parallel parenting is often the result of a messy divorce or tumultuous relationship where interaction between parents frequently leads to conflict and strife.

Many parents use parallel parenting after their divorce to help them transition into their new role as single parents. This parenting approach can help each parent take time out to let the dust settle after their divorce. Once they are both ready, they may or can slowly convert to a co-parenting approach.

Conversely, some parents may opt for parallel parenting as a long-term solution. This parenting method can confuse their children because of the often-conflicting parenting styles. It can also be difficult to decide and agree on what is best for their children.

Silhouette of uncooperative ex spouses with backs turned to each other

Which Approach Is Best? Parallel Parenting Vs. Co-Parenting

Parallel parenting is a helpful approach after divorce because it allows each parent to take time away from the other to grieve their marriage and heal from the trauma of divorce. However, this approach may not be ideal for their children.

While parallel parenting can help parents in high-conflict relationships, this approach may lead to more conflict. Because of the lack of communication between parents, their limited interactions may become more aggressive. This aggression can lead to more arguments and disagreements, which can negatively influence their child.

Additionally, parallel parenting can impact a child’s perceived stability. If the parents raise their children differently, the child may easily become confused about how each home functions. For example, having different rules can cause conflict between parents and their children. They may become hostile toward one parent for disallowing certain things because the other parent allows those behaviors.

Co-parenting has a much more child-centric idealism in place. Both parents work together as a unified team to raise their children and ensure they meet their child’s needs. This helps children adjust to life after divorce and creates more stability for them.

Co-parents typically have better communication, which helps them to raise their children under guidelines that they have already agreed upon. Because they can interact with one another, they are also better able to communicate what the child needs and wants regularly.

Parallel parents typically don’t attend the same events, either. This can harm their children, who may potentially feel insecure and unsure about their relationship with the absent parent.

For example, if one parent shows up to their sports games, they may feel supported and loved by that parent. But, because the other parent is absent at these important events, they may feel distanced and insecure in that relationship.

Co-parenting, on the other hand, fosters the relationship between the child and both parents equally. Because they can communicate and interact healthily, they are both able to be present for important moments and events in their child’s life. Being present and active in their life helps their child feel secure and loved in their relationships with both of their parents.

Ultimately, picking a parenting style after divorce can be tricky. But, as adults, it’s important to understand that your main focus has to be on your child rather than your ex-partner.

You will need to put your emotions and feelings toward your child’s parent to think clearly about what is best for all of you moving forward. Although you may have differences with your child’s other parent, it is essential to remember that your child’s needs have to come first.

Silhoutte showing co-parenting with parents putting arms together overtop of standing children to show working together and happy family

Adults can understand the intricacies of divorce and separation. However, children may not have a concrete idea of how this affects relationships and living environments. If you want to give your child more stability and help them adjust to life after divorce, co-parenting may be the better option for you – and your child.

Parallel parenting after divorce should be seen as a stepping stone to co-parenting rather than a permanent solution. Suppose you are parallel parenting to iron out unresolved issues and conflicts. In that case, you should undertake it with the end goal of coming together for your child in the long run.

Final Thoughts

The main difference between parallel parenting vs. co-parenting is how it affects your children. While parallel parenting may seem like the ideal approach following a divorce, it’s important to consider how your children will feel. Parallel parenting can cause confusion and instability in children.

On the other hand, co-parenting is a great way to raise your children in a unified manner after your divorce – but it can be challenging to get right!

You will need to ensure that both you and your ex-partner are willing to put effort into co-parenting for the good of your child. This approach can only work if both parents want it to work!

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