When couples split up, and there are childen are involved, this can start a chain of reactions that can be both positive but also hugely destructive. Co-parenting is an option only when both ex-spouses support the other parent and respect their right to have a good relationship with the children. Parents who co-parent tend to experience lower conflict than those who have sole custody arrangements. Studies show that conflict is what creates the most pain and anguish for children after their parents split, and that keeping parental disagreements to a minimum is a key aspect of helping kids become resilient. parents who can problem-solve together in the best interest of the child, even though they no longer live together. The child goes easily between homes while the parents attend school functions at the same time and compare notes on a regular basis. Parental interaction is cordial and there is a forum for conflict resolution in place to head off problems, should they arise. If done properly, a child continues to get the best of both parents even after they break-up. Tension is kept to a minimum.
But what if parents don’t get along or have high-conflict relationships? I know in my marrtiage breakdown, I wanted to co-parent with my ex husband but unfortunately after two years of trying and reaching breaking point, I knew I needed to reassess to protect my own mental health. So what exactly is parallel parenting? Parallel parenting is an arrangement in which divorced parents are able to co-parent by means of disengaging from each other, and having limited direct contact, in situations where they have demonstrated that they are unable to communicate with each other in a respectful manner. Where every tome a conversation is started, it spirals into conflict and no resolution is ever found and both are left going around in circles.
Any verbal communication should be limited, avoided, and/or treated with a “walking-on-eggshells” approach. Communication is best performed electronically with email or online divorce software capable of sharing information about the children. There are many apps out there that can allow for this. I coach my clients on the “Grey Rock” method and helping them put a plan of minimal communication in place. I usually see high conflict parenting where personality disorders are in play such as borderline and narcissistic personality disorder. It can be heartbreaking for a parent to realise that they are unable to co-paremt especually if the children are young because usually there is alot of guilt about the breakdown and effects on the family and children and many parents think they can cope and will keep contunuing to try and co-parent but this comes at a cost. the cost is usually your mental health.
You can’t co-parent with someone who is unwilling to co-parent, howver hard you may try. Your children deserve to have as mentally strong a parent as possible as this enables you to parent your children effectively and constantly engaging in conflict with your ex partner is counter productive. It is not that you are a failure, it is that you recognise that you are unable to co-parent and taking proactive steps to move forward for the best of your children. Children thrive better with separate disengaged parents that argumantaive parents trying to co-parent.
It is a good choice for divorced parents who meet two criteria:
- They are committed to the idea that a child deserves and benefits from having both parents deeply involved in their children’s lives;
- They have too much conflict between themselves to be able to co-parent.
Parallel parenting allows parents to remain disengaged with one another while they remain close to their children. Both parallel parenting and co-parenting can benefit kids if parents consider what’s in their children’s best interests.
Here are 6 guidelines to help you parallel parent in a high conflict divorce.
- All communication must be non-personal and business-like in nature and relate to information relevant to your children’s well-being. (The Grey Rock Method that I coach)
- Parents never use their children as messengers to communicate back and forth.
- No changes to the schedule are made without written agreement.
- No personal information is shared with the other parent in any form.
- To minimize conflict, schedules are shared via a calendar or in writing. Ideally via email and not text as this is instant and often inflammatory
It is vitally important for the children not to feel in the middle of your divorce but at the centre. Parallel parenting allows both parents to focus on the children NOT on conflict. This is highly beneficial for the children. Parallel parenting does not elliminate contact but minimise. I will be talking about co-parenting and parallel parenting in my regular Sunday night Divorce Recovery Live on Facebook on 7th October on my business page on Facebook and then uploaded to my Youtube Channel. I will go into more detail and help you understand the ins and outs of how and why it can be very effective for all involved.
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Have a great week
Your friend and coach