Parallel Parenting Vs Co-Parenting

Parallel Parenting vs. Co-parenting—What Are the Differences?

High levels of conflict between parents after a divorce can be extremely detrimental to children. While children can adapt to divorce, constant conflict between the two people they love and trust the most is something they struggle to cope with. In short, the healthiest option for your children is to have two involved parents (with exceptions for cases involving abuse or untreated addictions).

Parallel Parenting

If you and your ex share custody, you may have come across the term “parallel parenting.” It refers to parents who have such intense conflict and negativity between them that they cannot effectively interact or collaborate regarding their children.

In parallel parenting, every aspect of the children’s lives is kept separate. It is often seen as a last-resort approach when co-parenting attempts have failed. Communication between the parents is limited to a minimum.

All communication related to the children is done in writing, usually through email. The messages are expected to be professional and concise. The “on-duty” parent should only contact the other parent in case of an emergency. Both parents do not attend child-related events together. Important dates, such as extracurricular activities, parent-teacher conferences, and other school functions, are predetermined, and each parent is assigned specific responsibilities.

During drop-offs and pickups, parents should wait in their respective vehicles without engaging in verbal exchanges. A system must be established with the child’s teachers, doctors, therapists, babysitters, etc., to ensure that both parents are informed about the child’s well-being. The parallel parenting model is specifically designed for parents who cannot be in the same vicinity without significant conflict.

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Parallel parenting can be customized to suit specific situations. For example, you may prefer to sit on opposite sides of the court during your son’s basketball game instead of next to each other. As time passes and conflicts decrease, parallel parenting can sometimes evolve into co-parenting. By significantly reducing a child’s exposure to parental conflict, parallel parenting allows the child to develop healthy relationships with both parents.


When divorced or separated parents choose to share equal responsibility in raising their child, it is referred to as co-parenting. Although you may or may not be friends with your ex, maintaining a civil relationship concerning the children is crucial. Co-parenting does not guarantee an absence of conflict or occasional challenges, but it ensures that any conflicts do not interfere with the child’s relationship with either parent.

Co-parenting allows the child to cultivate a healthy and positive bond with both parents. It significantly reduces the likelihood of the child assuming an adult role by mediating between their parents. By fostering a sense of stability, peaceful co-parenting ensures that the child does not feel obligated to “choose” between parents. In a good co-parenting arrangement, parents have open discussions about child-related issues instead of burdening the child with the role of a messenger.

While parents may not always express positivity regarding the child’s time with the other parent, successful co-parenting requires them to at least remain neutral. Co-parenting involves coordinated parenting time, regular communication, flexibility, and mutual respect in deciding matters concerning the children.

Which is Better—Co-Parenting or Parallel Parenting?

Clearly, it is better for children to witness their parents making decisions peacefully rather than being caught in high-conflict situations. In some cases, one parent may lean more towards co-parenting, while the other leans towards parallel parenting. If the differences are not too significant, a compromise can be reached. However, if the divide is vast, parallel parenting may be necessary. The final decision depends on factors such as:

  • Allocation of parenting time for each parent
  • Structure of start and end times for parenting periods
  • Guidelines for pick-ups, drop-offs, and last-minute changes
  • Handling of disputes in the future
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Once these issues are addressed, it will become clearer which parenting approach will work best for you and your children.

Thumbuddy To Love

For more information on parenting after divorce or separation, visit the Thumbuddy To Love website.

Note: This article has been rewritten for conversational purposes, using the information provided in the original article. The content remains true to the essence of the original article.