Parents who have a high-conflict relationship with each other may need to be very intentional about the parenting arrangement they agree to try. In many cases, it is in the child’s best interest to maintain a healthy relationship with both parents, which may suggest a co-parenting situation would be appropriate.
However, it can be harmful for kids to see and hear their parents fighting. Frequent and heated arguments at pick-ups, drop-offs and shared events can negate the positive outcomes that the parents intended to create with that arrangement.
Fortunately, families have other options. One option that may be a better fit for high-conflict parents is parallel parenting.
How is parallel parenting different than co-parenting?
Parallel parenting is actually a different way to co-parent. Co-parenting usually involves parenting together with shared decision-making, shared events and frequent parental interaction.
Parallel parenting involves parents disengaging from each other, while remaining fully engaged with their child. Those who choose to adopt a parallel parenting arrangement usually agree to a structured plan to limit the direct contact they have with each other.
For example, one parent may drop the child off at school and the other may pick the child up from school. Parents may share a digital calendar to track schedules, and they may only communicate with each other via email or text message. When communication is necessary, it must remain business-like and focused on the child. Personal details are rarely, if ever, shared between parents with this type of arrangement.
The best parenting arrangement for a family may depend entirely on that family’s unique dynamic and situation. Although parallel parenting may not be the best arrangement for all families, it can be a good arrangement when parents struggle to interact without conflict.