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Parallel Parenting vs.Co-Parenting: What’s the Difference?

For good reason, family therapists praise co-parenting. ‌It has been demonstrated in numerous studies that children do better when both parents are involved in their affairs on a regular basis.

Furthermore, research suggests that co-parenting reduces conflict between parents. ‌This is especially true in comparison to custody arrangements in which one individual is granted‌ ‌sole‌ ‌custody.

As with any relationship, successful co-parenting requires maturity on both sides. ‌Whenever possible, parents should avoid conflicts in front of their children after a split to minimize the pain they experience. ‌As a result of this approach, children gain a sense of resilience over the course of their lives.

Parallel parenting can, however, be a better option in some cases. ‌In this article, we'll examine‌ ‌the‌ ‌differences between‌ ‌co-parenting‌ ‌and‌ ‌parallel‌ ‌parenting. ‌In addition, we'll analyze situations where each approach is more effective.

What is Co-Parenting?

When two separated or divorced parents share childrearing responsibilities, this is called co-parenting. ‌Using this approach, both parents have access to their children.

A child benefits when parents maintain an equal or equivalent level of responsibility for his or her upbringing.


There is evidence that children of divorce who spend at least 35 percent of their time with both parents are better adjusted. ‌As a result, they are more psychologically and behaviorally healthy. Additionally, they achieve greater‌ ‌academic‌ ‌success.

Obviously, this approach is not without pitfalls, especially if one or both parents are unable‌ ‌to‌ ‌care‌ ‌for‌ ‌their‌ ‌children. ‌However, aside from those rare cases, co-parenting is a viable, healthy method for raising children after divorce.

A co-parenting arrangement allows children to stay in close contact with both of their parents. Children are also provided with the psychological space and permission to love both parents regardless of which parent they choose.

The Benefits of Co-Parenting

During your divorce, you can begin the co-parenting process. ‌Child support and child custody agreements will probably be negotiated during the divorce process. ‌This process may also include a parenting plan.

There are a lot of benefits to co-parenting from the start. ‌After all, it is easier to develop comprehensive parenting plans when parents work together from the outset.

Co-parenting has the following benefits as well:

  • Your children will experience fewer conflicts

  • Sharing schedules, routines, and rules between households can increase stability and consistency

  • Communication between parents is facilitated

  • Positive relationships between parents and their children

  • Meetings, school functions, and extracurricular activities are often attended by both parents

  • Reduce the risk that the child will take on adult responsibilities or act as the peacemaker between parents

When Co-Parenting Doesn’t Work

The parents of the children must be on reasonable terms and communicate effectively in order for co-parenting to work. ‌Even if a divorce is relatively amicable, this may not be possible for all parents. ‌No matter how friendly two parents may be, they will never see eye to eye if their parenting beliefs and approaches are radically different.

It is also necessary to keep in mind that divorce is a highly emotional process, and for some couples, just being in the same room with an ex is simply not feasible. ‌‌‌Moreover, suppose you had to leave an abusive or manipulative ex after an acrimonious divorce. ‌A co-parenting arrangement may not be the most suitable option for you in these circumstances.

What is Parallel Parenting?

Parenting in parallel is entirely different.

You and your ex are separated by ‌an invisible wall. ‌It is rare for you to communicate with each other, and you have two parallel households with your kids.

Usually, parents do this when one parent is too controlling or intrusive, or they wish to become completely independent from the other parent. ‌In cases where a parent is triggered by the mention of the other parent, they are likely to want to parallel parent. ‌As long as it minimizes or ends your conflict, it's‌ ‌not‌ ‌necessarily‌ ‌a‌ ‌bad‌ ‌thing. ‌By doing so, you are protecting your children from the damaging effects of your continued‌ ‌conflict. After all, parenting differences may have caused the divorce for a variety of reasons.

The Benefits of Parallel Parenting

In families with high levels of conflict, parallel parenting plans are often highly beneficial. ‌Parallel parenting can be started while working out your divorce and custody terms, just as with co-parenting. ‌Parallel parenting plans, whether outlined between you and your ex or drafted by the courts, have many advantages.

Among the benefits of parallel parenting are:

  • There is a significant reduction in conflict

  • Contact between parents is limited

  • Providing both parents with some time and space to recover‌ ‌from‌ ‌their‌ ‌separation

  • Children's needs are prioritized

  • Make sure that both parents foster a relationship with your child despite your differences

  • There are clear and strict boundaries and expectations

  • Assuring that each parent has more autonomy in determining how to raise their children and the rules of their household

In high-conflict situations, parallel parenting can also provide stability for children. ‌In spite of the fact that many households have different rules and routines, visitation and custody schedules are typically very strict, and children know what to expect from their parents. ‌As well as reducing stress, parallel parenting can enhance emotional stability.

Which Parenting Approach is Right For Your Family?

The parenting method that best fits your family's dynamic should be considered during a divorce. There is no one answer to parenting post-divorce. While co-parenting works well for some families, parallel parenting is a better option for others. Neither style is better than the other. Both have their own benefits and drawbacks.

Resist the urge to compare yourself to other co-parenting situations. ‌Families are unique, and you are meeting your family's needs to the best of your ability. ‌You may want to consider modifying your current parenting plan or custody agreement if you are having trouble with it. ‌Changing your parenting plan to something closer to parallel parenting might help if, for instance, you initially established a co-parenting relationship and it doesn't work.

The following questions might help you decide which parenting method works best for your family:

  • Which level of contact am I comfortable with?

  • Is it possible for us to communicate healthily and come to an agreement about parenting?

  • Is there a way to reduce tension and arguments between us?

  • In what ways are consistency and working together important to me and my child?

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