A smiling mom with her two kids eating breakfast together

Parallel parenting, unlike co-parenting, is a plan whereby separated or divorced parents raise their children separately. Under a parallel parenting plan, the parents don’t participate in events together and keep communications minimum. The parents approve of each other’s plans but don’t participate in them. Parallel parenting plans are used by parents who can no longer work together or be civil with one another — it is handy when separating from a narcissistic parent who may try to turn every situation into being about them rather than the kids.

Parallel Parenting

Parallel parenting is useful when a bad relationship ends on bad terms. The parents aren’t able to cooperate on raising children — or even spend time together. Parents that dislike each other continue having those feelings, which can color how they interact with one another and in front of their children.

Parallel parenting allows people to continue raising their children while minimizing their interaction. The parents detach from one another and choose how to raise the kids on their own time when the children are in their care.

Parallel Parenting and Children

A parallel parenting plan might sound chaotic because children may be subject to different parenting styles and plans — which could be disruptive and bad for the children. However, it is also necessary and for the benefit of the kids. Parents who can’t work together increase the stress on their kids by fighting with one another. Parallel parenting reduces these frictions, which minimizes the fights and stress on children. Parallel parenting is far from ideal, but it is a better alternative when managing parents who can’t stop fighting.

It’s important for individuals to understand that parallel parenting isn’t necessarily permanent; it can be a stepping stone to co-parenting. Moving into co-parenting should be a defined goal and should naturally arise if both parents are capable of increased interaction and cooperation.

Creating the Plan

Those seeking to develop a parallel parenting plan can take the following steps:

  1. Decide how to split time with the kids.
  2. Determine the start and end times for each visit to reduce confusion.
  3. Choose a pick-up and drop-off location to minimize parental interactions.
  4. Create a plan to handle cancellations.
  5. Discuss how to handle disputes.

Parallel parenting is best for parents who are incapable of working together. Parallel parenting allows parents the space to work together and focus on what is in the best interests of their children.