Parenting after separation – What is the best approach?

September 19, 2018

There are a number of different terms for separated parents raising children. Co-parenting and parallel parenting are a couple of them.

According to Wikipedia, co-parenting commonly refers to the shared parental responsibility of two, separated or divorced parents and has its roots in a 1989 United Nations convention to establish basic rights for children around the world. It was agreed at the convention that children had a right to know both parents, even if those parents separated.

Effective co-parenting arrangements usually involve parents working cooperatively together to make decisions for the child. Parents in a cooperative co-parenting situation aim to communicate with each other and constructively work to achieve the best outcomes for the child in areas such as schooling, common discipline standards, holidays and other aspects of life. Often these arrangements can continue to improve over time after the pain of a relationship breakdown begins to heal.

Cooperative co-parenting works when both parties believe that the other parent holds an equal role and value in raising the children. These parents may not always agree on all parenting decisions, but there is a mutual respect for each other’s role and neither parent allows anger or resentment to impact their parenting decisions. The goal is always what is best for the children and how to make it work smoothly for everyone. Parents that are not able to successfully co-parent often find themselves in a regular state of conflict with the other parent.

Conflictual co-parenting occurs when one or both people do not believe the other person has an equal right to parent. They may have a complete lack of respect for the other parent, they may interfere with the ability of the other parent to play an equal role or undermine the other parent’s relationship with the children. It can be best for those in a conflictual co-parenting style to follow parallel parenting.

Ideally, it would be great if all couples took the approach of co-parenting, but in the real world, things often do not work out ideally, especially if family violence is involved.

Parallel parenting is an arrangement in which divorced parents are able to parent by means of disengaging from each other, and having limited direct contact, in situations where they have demonstrated that they are unable to communicate with each other in a respectful manner.

These parents find it difficult to speak with each other without becoming engulfed in antagonistic and non-productive conversations. Yet they both want to have an on-going relationship with their children.

In other words, parallel parenting allows parents to remain disengaged with one another while they remain close to their children. Because of the continuing high level of conflict between them, these parents need to have less direct contact with each other. Parallel parenting is necessary when the ability to compromise is gone.

Parallel parenting can often be the better answer for those relationships where family violence was/is involved.

Parallel Parenting can be an advantage in these ways: –

  • It reduces the number of conflicts with your ex-partner and reduces the chances of family violence towards you;
  • It allows you to create your own household rules and parenting style;
  • It gives you the ability to create a new family structure in your own home with the children
  • It reduces anxiety in yourself, the children and other members of your household

While parents can worry about the inconsistencies between homes, children are able to quickly learn the differences in one house from another and it is typically easier for them compared to having parents in high levels of conflict.

For parallel parenting to work, the following rules should be followed: –

  • Everything needs to be spelled out in a court-order parenting plan, including drop-offs, holidays, time-sharing, medical, religious and educational decisions, everything;
  • The parents spend little time together and agree to communicate with each other only through written form;
  • The parent who is with the child is the parent in charge and only in the case of medical or another type of emergency, is required to alert the other parent of anything;
  • All communication MUST be non-personal and business-tone in nature and only relate to the information relevant to the children;
  • No personal information is shared with the other parent;
  • To minimise conflict, no assumptions are made and all schedules are shared via a calendar;
  • The children are not to give communication to the other parent on behalf of the other.

The idea of fairness and reasonability needs to be let go. You will not be able to have a rational conversation with someone that holds high levels of anger. You will not be able to show them that you are right or genuine. You need to remember that co-parenting didn’t work or isn’t going to work for a reason and you cannot reason with someone if they, or both of you, are consumed with your personal feelings of anger, resentment and bitterness.

Sometimes the path of least resistance is the correct one. Reducing communication and conflict is a way to protect the children and yourself. It is essential to take the approach that suits your family.

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