Co-parenting is a method of parenting in cohesion with your ex-spouse or partner where both parties are able to make decisions regarding the welfare of the child together and with minimal conflict. Co-parenting, although ideal, can be difficult to maintain during such an emotionally charged time, especially if the divorce is considered “high conflict.”
For those who cannot co-parent, parallel parenting is recommended. Parallel parenting is a method by which to make decisions with your ex but with a bit of disengagement to prevent emotions from clouding judgement and/or behavior. Parallel parenting enables both parents of a child to follow the same set of parenting rules while keeping their feelings in check when making decisions together for the best of the children.
If you and your ex have difficulties working together in person or verbally, here are a few guidelines for both parties to follow when parallel parenting.
- Conduct all communication in a formal setting. Use emails or texting to communicate and only about subjects relating to your children. Minimal face to face communication reduces the risk of an argument taking place in front of the kids. When you do have to talk in person (like at a school or sporting event) remain business-like and cordial and do not engage in conversation that does not directly relate to the welfare of the children.
- “If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all”. This is most true after a high-conflict divorce. Keep your feelings about your ex-spouse to yourself; do not project your feelings about your spouse onto your children and avoid speaking ill of your ex in front of or near your children. Divorces are difficult for children, sometimes more so, and hearing bad things about someone they love can make it harder.
- Children are not messengers. Do not use your children to communicate messages to your ex or as a source for information. If your ex has started dating or made a large purchase, don’t ask for details from your child and don’t ask your child to inform your ex-spouse about a change in an upcoming event—their new social life is not any of your business and you should send an email or text update about the schedule change.
- Create a shared, digital calendar. Schedules should list with whom the child will be with on which days, any upcoming school events, and extracurricular activities. Both parents should have access to it and changes to the calendar should alert the other party. There are many websites and apps designed for communication and event tracking for parents engaged in parallel parenting.
- Pre-approve modifications in advance and in writing. If either party requests a temporary change in the visitation schedule or handling of a particular responsibility, these changes should be made well in advanced and be sent to the other parent in writing (emails, texts, and digital forms count). Not only does this provide documentation the change was approved but it also provides ample time for both parents to make any necessary plans to accommodate the change.
Over time, successful parallel parenting can lead to parents to move past their emotions and learn how to come together and co-parent. If not, these parallel parenting guidelines serve as an excellent means to keep emotions from taking over and causing the child or children involved to feel as if they are in the middle of conflict.
Source: Divorce Magazine, “What is the difference between co-parenting and parallel parenting?”, accessed Dec 4, 2016