Co-Parenting versus Parallel Parenting

Co-Parenting is a new term of art used to describe divorced parents, who continue to raise their children separate, but together.



  1. Consider your child’s needs first and foremost, and try to strike a balance between the “needs” and the “wants.” Most children need structure in their daily lives, but they also need some down-time. Filling every afternoon with an activity may seem fun and create a well-rounded child, but studies have also shown that an overly busy schedule may also create unnecessary stress on a child. Remember also that children typically want to please both of their parents, and what is said to one parent may differ vastly from what is said to the other parent.
  2. Respect your boundaries. When your child is with one parent, it is inappropriate for the other parent to make demands that will affect the timesharing of the other parent.
  3. Don’t judge. Recognize that your households run differently, and don’t pass judgment on one another.
  4. Be flexible. If there is something that benefits your child that does not negatively impact your timesharing (or you are willing to make an exception), try to accommodate the other parent.
  5. Don’t be dismissive of sensitive financial issues. Discussions of money have no place in a child’s ears, and it is inappropriate and hurtful to tell a child that one parent will not or cannot pay for something. Whether it’s asking for new clothes, getting a new bike or buying a new toy, the best answer is always, “Let me discuss this with your mother/father.” Regardless of the outcome, the child never needs to know who is paying for what expense.

Parallel Parenting is an effective tool for divorced parents who are unable to co-parent due to high-conflict or abuse.


  1. Modify How You Communicate with Your Ex.  In short, ignore what all of the professionals have recommended up to this point.  Since co-parenting is not an option for you, you’ve got to try another method.  
    • Do not use the telephone.  If all discussions turn into arguments, there’s simply no point in striking up a conversation that will only ultimately blow up in smoke.
    • Do use text messages and emails, but do so with caution.  The written word can be just as hostile as the spoken one, but the written one can be used very effectively against you in court.  Choose your words carefully.  Respond respectfully and unemotionally.
    • Do use communication only for specific purposes.   For example, details about doctor appointments for the children or logistical pick-up plans are important things to communicate.  However, extraneous, unnecessary details should be kept out of the communication.
    • Do not say what you don’t mean.  “Say what you mean, and mean what you say,” is an old adage that holds true in communication skills.  If you don’t plan to follow through, don’t bother saying something.
  2.  Separate Yourselves at all Costs.  Sure, it would be great for little Stevie to see his divorced parents attend a soccer game at the same time.  But, if there’s more yelling in the bleachers than on the field, it will only result in embarrassment and trauma to Stevie.  If you can’t be civil with your former spouse, attend child-related events separately.  There’s nothing wrong with hosting two birthday parties.  Or attending sporting events on alternating days.  And frankly, most schools are accustomed to holding two parent/teacher conferences.  Avoid confrontations for the sake of your child.
  3. Accept that You Can’t Control What Goes On in Your Ex’s House.  The sooner you accept that you can’t force your ex to use a particular babysitter, abide by a particular bedtime, or serve a particular meal plan, the better off you will be.  Assume that if your rule is “No TV until homework is done,” your ex will do the opposite.  Save your sanity and ignore what you can’t change.
  4.  Establish Your Own Relationships.  Assume that your description to teachers, religious leaders, friends’ parents and others will be less than flattering.  Don’t feel compelled to shout your side of the story to anyone who will listen (unless you want to confirm your lunacy!)  Instead, work at establishing solid relationships with the people involved in your child’s life, so that you maintain a direct line of communication.