What is parallel parenting and how does it differ from co-parenting?

Co-parenting and parallel parenting are two approaches to parenting after a separation or divorce. Parallel parenting is often used in high conflict divorce cases.

The main difference between theses parenting styles is the level of communication and collaboration between parents.

Co-parenting is a collaborative approach where both parents work together to make decisions about their children's upbringing.

In contrast, parallel parenting is an approach where parents disengage from each other to minimise conflict and make decisions independently. Here are some key differences between co-parenting and parallel parenting:


- Both parents work together to make decisions about their children's upbringing.

- Communication is frequent and ongoing.

- Parents may align on a shared parenting approach for a child.

- Co-parents may attend the same functions, appointments, or child-related events.

Here are some benefits of co-parenting:

1.      Emotional stability for children: Co-parenting provides emotional stability for children by reinforcing the sense of security and love. Children are less likely to feel abandoned or neglected, as they can maintain a close relationship with both parents

2.      Shared parenting responsibilities: Co-parenting involves shared parenting responsibilities, which can alleviate some of the burdens of single parenting. By working together, parents can divide tasks such as school pickups, extracurricular activities, medical appointments, and other obligations.

3.      Consistency and routine: Co-parenting provides consistency and routine for children, which can help them feel more secure and provide a sense of stability

4.      Role modelling a healthy relationship: Co-parenting provides an opportunity for parents to role model a healthy relationship for their children, even after a separation or divorce

5.      Two families, two sets of friends, two support systems: Co-parenting can double the number of resources a child is exposed to, including two families, two sets of friends, and two support systems.

6.      Conflict resolution: Co-parenting gives children a chance to learn by example. They watch and learn about relationships and conflict resolution. They learn how to cooperate with others even during difficult times.

Overall, co-parenting provides numerous benefits for both parents and children. By establishing a collaborative approach, divorced parents can create a nurturing and stable environment for their children.

Parallel Parenting

- Each parent has their own parenting approach when the children are with them.

- Communication is limited and often occurs solely through email, text messages, or a co-parenting app.

- Parents do not share parenting approaches and essentially parent separately.

- Parents do not attend the same functions, appointments, or child-related events.

Parallel parenting is a strategy that allows parents to raise their child while having little direct contact between one another. It is a parenting approach that is often used in high-conflict situations where co-parenting is not possible. Here are some tips for implementing parallel parenting effectively:

1.      Keep communication business-like and focused on your children. All communication should be in writing and via one specific platform.

2.      Agree to make day-to-day decisions for your child independently. While important decisions on matters like education and medical care need to be made jointly, everyday choices like what the will have for lunch or what film they'll watch over the weekend are ones that each parent will make on their own.

3.      Change the location of your parenting time exchanges to a neutral space away from either of your homes or use a supervised exchange service.

4.      Create a detailed parallel parenting plan that includes the start and end of each person’s parenting time, a specific exchange time and place, responsibility for transportation, what happens in the event of cancellation.

5.      Keep interactions with your ex to a minimum. Do not intervene or comment on the other parent’s parenting behaviours.

6.      Focus on your child's well-being and their relationships with both parents.

Parallel parenting can be challenging, but it can be effective when implemented correctly. It is important to remember that the goal of parallel parenting is to minimise conflict through structure and clarity, allowing both parents to contribute meaningfully to their child's life.

When implementing parallel parenting, there are some common mistakes that parents should avoid ensuring the success of the approach. Here are some of the most common mistakes to avoid:

Failing to compromise: It is important to be flexible and willing to compromise with the other parent when necessary.

Speaking ill of the other parent: Avoid speaking negatively about the other parent in front of your child.

Trying to "win" your child's love: Avoid competing with the other parent for your child's affection.

Being inflexible with the other parent: It is important to be open to the other parent's ideas and suggestions

Exhibiting intolerant behaviour toward the other parent: Avoid being hostile or aggressive towards the other parent.

Oversharing: Avoid discussing legal, financial, or logistical details of the divorce with your child

Showing favouritism: Avoid showing favouritism towards one parent or activity over the other.

It's important to note that co-parenting and parallel parenting are not mutually exclusive approaches. Some parents may use a combination of both techniques depending on the situation.

Parenting styles

When parents have different parenting styles, it can be challenging to create a consistent parenting approach after a divorce. Here are some common challenges parents face when trying to balance their parenting styles:

Differences in parenting styles: Parents may have different parenting styles, which can cause friction and conflict.

Communication issues: Communication is key when it comes to creating a consistent parenting style. If parents have communication issues, it can be difficult to create a consistent approach.

Conflict between parents: Conflict between parents can make it difficult to create a consistent parenting style. It is important for parents to put aside their personal differences and focus on their child's needs.

Different schedules: If parents have different schedules, it can be challenging to create a consistent parenting style. It is important for parents to work together to establish consistent routines for their child.

Different values: Parents may have different values when it comes to parenting, which can make it difficult to create a consistent approach.

To overcome these challenges, parents should prioritise their child's well-being and maintain a business-like relationship with the other parent. Communication, flexibility, and a focus on the child's needs are key to creating a consistent parenting approach after a divorce.

We often meet with parents who are struggling to create a consistent parenting style and/or plan. We help parents navigate any challenges that arise and work together to create solutions to the issues they need to address. If we can help you or someone you know call us on 0800 206 2058 or email us at hello@familymandm.co.uk you can also book a free call on our website – www.familymediationandmentoring.co.uk




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