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  • Writer's pictureTemara Willis

Is Parallel Parenting for You?

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

A mother and son sharing a moment. Mum contemplating the concept of parallel parenting. Is this approach the right fit for your co-parenting journey? Explore the insights in the blog by Adelaide Family Mediation.

Separation and divorce are challenging, one of the most difficult things a person can experience. And it can be even more complicated when you have children, and your children are in the middle of it all. If co-parenting isn’t working and you are thinking about your options, you might have heard or come across the term “parallel parenting”. This could be an option for your family, but with parallel parenting, understanding the benefits and drawbacks of this despairing approach is essential. However, making this informed decision may be vital for the sake of your children and your sanity.


Best intended friends and family may have counselled you that the best way to parent is by becoming friends with your ex-partner or being indifferent, compromising, and collaborating. There’s one problem with this: co-parenting with a high-conflict ex. While their advice is accurate - co-parenting requires amicable communication, flexibility from both parties and a general ability to get along - unfortunately, you are experiencing high-conflict co-parenting, lacking all of those things. So what’s the answer? There is no one correct answer; however, you might want to consider parallel parenting! Let us explore further.

What is Parallel Parenting?


Short answer: the rules are yours.


Longer answer: Parallel parenting is co-parenting by disengaging from each other and having limited or no contact in situations where it is evident that respectful communication can’t occur. You and you alone make the rules for what happens in your house and how you raise the children when it is your care time.


Parallel parenting becomes an attractive option when you realise that despite everything, you just can’t co-parent with your high-conflict ex. Parallel parenting means making the mental shift away from expecting your high-conflict co-parent to return favours, keep their word, or see your point of view regarding fundamental parenting issues. Parallel parenting differs from co-parenting in that your ex is not involved in specifics about daily parenting duties like bedtime, diet, and homework, nor are you involved in these things while your children are with them.

Parallel parenting focuses on “you do what works for you, and I’ll do what works for me.” For example, in a co-parenting situation, the two parents may collaborate to decide on using a mobile phone in both houses. In parallel parenting, you decide on phone usage only while the child is at your home.

You are not being uncooperative - it’s just that you can’t agree and never seem to agree on how to best parent, so you have decided to stop - why keep beating your head against a brick wall! When one parent tries to dictate how everyday life should be run in the other parent’s home, that doesn’t make for a positive or sustainable co-parenting relationship. Parallel parenting is a method of putting boundaries in place that can help calm the chaos between houses and regain some personal peace.


The Benefits of Parallel Parenting


Even though parallel parenting is often seen as a failure by those unfamiliar with the concept, it is not. While it isn’t an ideal option, it is sometimes the only viable alternative for parents experiencing high conflict who have repeatedly shown that they are incapable of compromise or reciprocation. No matter how much it is in your shared child’s best interest.


The benefits of parallel parenting include:


  • Reduced stress and chaos in your daily life by reducing non-essential communication.

  • No more walking on eggshells or worrying about whether you were parenting incorrectly or in a way that would upset your ex.

  • A more harmonious environment and less stress for children and their parents.

  • Protecting your children from parental conflict.


Parallel parenting clarifies that both parents are equally important in a child’s life regardless of their hostility and acrimony.


How to Start Parallel Parenting


The first step in shifting from high-conflict co-parenting to parallel parenting is to stop being hyper-vigilant about placating the ex. While intuitive for most of us, our natural instinct as humans is to continue compromising until everyone agrees. To sum up, a high-conflict co-parent will not be pleased with any solution that’s not their solution—and they’ll get upset even if they lose. So if your attempts to compromise haven’t done any good, you might as well go with the best solutions for you and your family.


Agreeing to disagree is also an aspect of parallel parenting. However, if you and your high-conflict ex disagree about major joint custody issues, you might need to involve a family mediator and recommence family mediation.


Though parallel parenting doesn’t refer to an official, court-ordered parenting arrangement, it can be established by making some legal changes in your parenting plan... including agreements about which way disagreements between co-parents will be settled.


While, unfortunately, you can’t wave a magic wand to get an ex to stop causing chaos, parallel parenting can at least restore some sense of fairness to an imbalanced parenting situation.


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