When raising children, there are different ways to approach parenting after separation if you share the care of your children between both parents.
Co-parenting and parallel parenting are two approaches that have gained popularity in recent years, but they differ in their level of collaboration and communication between parents.
Understanding these different styles can be helpful as you have more defined expectations on how the parenting process will work now and in the future. If one parent is trying to co-parent while the other is co-parenting, it can cause conflict as your perceptions of parenting are at odds.
Not all co-parenting couples fit neatly into either the ‘co-parenting’ or ‘parallel parenting’ box. You might have a unique blend. The most crucial factor is that you are on the same page.
Co-parenting: The approach
Co-parenting is a collaborative approach where both parents work together to make decisions about their children’s upbringing.
This includes matters including but not limited to:
- Social activities
In co-parenting, both parents have an active role in their children’s lives and are committed to maintaining a positive relationship with each other for the benefit of their children.
This approach requires ongoing communication, cooperation between the parents, flexibility, and compromise. It usually requires a detailed parenting plan or consent orders clearly setting out the care arrangements for the child, which both parents have agreed upon.
If you cannot stay together as a family, co-parenting is the next best parenting option for children because it gives them stability between parents and households. It is also an excellent opportunity for parents to role model how to have a healthy, functional relationship post-breakup.
Parallel parenting: The approach
On the other hand, parallel parenting is an approach where parents disengage from each other and minimise their communication as much as possible.
In parallel parenting, each parent has an individual parenting style and makes decisions independently of the other parent.
This approach is suitable for high-conflict situations where co-parenting is not feasible due to trust, communication, and cooperation issues. Parallel parenting allows both parents to remain involved in their children’s lives while reducing the level of conflict between them.
Although parallel-parented children might find it harder to get used to two parenting styles and routines, they can benefit if the conflict is lessened by parents no longer attempting to communicate ineffectively.
The difference between co-parenting and parallel parenting
The main difference between co-parenting and parallel parenting is the level of communication and collaboration between parents. In co-parenting, parents work together to make decisions and maintain a positive relationship for the benefit of their children. In parallel parenting, parents disengage from each other to minimise conflict and make decisions independently.
Co-parenting is the ideal approach when both parents can work together effectively for the benefit of their children. It requires high cooperation, communication, and mutual respect between parents. Co-parenting can also help children adjust to the changes accompanying separation or divorce. When children see that their parents can work together and communicate effectively, they feel more secure and confident in their relationships with both parents.
Parallel parenting is the preferred approach when co-parenting is impossible due to high levels of conflict between parents. In parallel parenting, parents prioritise the needs of their children over their own differences and disagreements. This approach allows each parent to have a separate relationship with their children and make decisions independently.
Note: In most cases, parallel parenting is not a permanent solution but rather a way to manage high levels of conflict until parents can work together more effectively in the future.
Further reading: How to cope with co-parenting stress and conflict.
Deciding on the right approach for you
When deciding which approach to take, it is vital to consider the children’s best interests.
Children benefit from having a positive relationship with both parents and feeling supported by both parents.
While co-parenting is the ideal approach, it is not always feasible in high-conflict situations. In these cases, parallel parenting can effectively minimise conflict and allow both parents to remain involved in their children’s lives.
It is 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. For example, parents may use parallel parenting for major decisions such as education or healthcare but use co-parenting for less important decisions such as social activities or hobbies.
Conclusion: The difference between co-parenting and parallel parenting
In conclusion, co-parenting and parallel parenting are two approaches to parenting after a separation or divorce.
Co-parenting is a collaborative approach where both parents work together to make decisions about their children’s upbringing. Parallel parenting is an approach where parents disengage from each other and make decisions independently.
The main difference between the two approaches is the level of parental communication and collaboration.
While co-parenting is the ideal approach, parallel parenting can effectively manage high levels of conflict until parents can work together more effectively in the future.
It is essential to prioritise the children’s best interests and choose the approach that will support their well-being and happiness.