Co-parenting vs Parallel Parenting

Co-parenting vs Parallel Parenting - Heidi Dinning

Divorce is a challenging journey, involving an emotional rollercoaster as you grieve and adjust to your new normal. If you and your partner have children, this can turn a divorce into a whole new set of landmines as you find the path to agreement on different things for the best interests of your kids. and as much as the marriage is over, your former spouse will never be 100% out of your life.

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Trying to determine early on how you will cooperate and work together as co-parents can help you to establish a strong foundation that you can build on. You may not know, but there is more than one style of co-parenting.

Read on to learn more about co-parenting and parallel parenting, so that you can decide what works best for you. 


Co-parenting is a more collaborative parenting experience when compared to parallel parenting. Due to this, it might not be the best choice for certain parents, especially if things are acrimonious or high-conflict. Below, we will discuss some of the unique qualities of co-parenting. 

What is Co-parenting?

First of all, what exactly is co-parenting, anyway? Generally, co-parenting refers to an approach to parenting that involves both parents, even if they are no longer romantically linked. It requires putting aside your feelings about each other, and focusing on raising the kids. It is a learned skill, takes practice, and more constant communication between parties.

Both parents can brainstorm and discuss together to address raising the children including their routine, household rules and expectations, school, discipline and consequences and any other issues or milestones that arise. It presents the parental unit as more of a united front, even if they are no longer in the same home. 

Communication While Co-parenting 

The rules for communication between parents who are taking a co-parenting approach are down to earth and reasonable. This is, in part, because those who take this approach usually decide to approach communication with an open and curious mind rather than a my-way-or-the-highway approach, which deflates any potential conflict right from the start.

There is typically some sort of forum in place as well in case conflict does arise, in order to address tension in the best way possible. 

Events While Co-parenting 

When a pair is co-parenting and focusing on the best interests of their children, they can attend the same events and functions for their children. Is your kid having a dance recital? No problem. You can both go! Often, it may lead to resentment of your partner– or resentment on your child’s part, directed towards the parent who does not attend– if you have to pick and choose who gets to go to which events. And really, that’s not focusing on the kids, that’s staying in your conflict. Since, with co-parenting, you can get along well enough to communicate, you are usually able to be in the same room together, too.

Why try to Co-parent?

Co-parenting is a great choice for those who are able to cooperate and communicate– for instance, maybe they just grew apart in their marriage and were able to split amicably. This lets the children see their parents still as a united parental force.

Co-parenting vs Parallel Parenting - Heidi Dinning (1)

Parallel Parenting

Parallel parenting is a more independent approach to parenting in a divorce situation. It can be a better choice if communication with your ex is still very difficult, but some may even find that they transition out of parallel parenting and into a more collaborative approach with time, as wounds heal. Ultimately, that’s what you want your end goal to be – for the kid’s sake.

Below, we go over some of the qualities that identify parallel parenting. 

What is Parallel Parenting?

Parallel parenting is a more individual approach to parenting, on the end of the parents. This is for parents who may or may not share custody and are unable to communicate directly or work together to address their children’s problems or set mutual expectations. Instead, each parent keeps things separate and may have their own rules and approach to parenting the children. 

Communication While Parallel Parenting

There is less communication between exes with parallel parenting– very little, and in some cases, none at all. It is also not uncommon for that communication to be done in writing, rather than in person or over the phone.

Parents should not share any personal information with each other and should keep the conversation focused on the children and the information that needs to be passed along. While one parent is with the children, they are not to communicate with the other parent, except in emergency situations– such as a medical emergency.  

Events While Parallel Parenting

In order to avoid conflict– which is how parallel parenting is designed– parents do not attend the same events when parallel parenting. This includes medical appointments, performances, and other such events. This is to minimize conflict, and in this situation where conflict is unavoidable, it is situationally better for your child. It allows them to have a good relationship with both parents, without unnecessary tension getting in the way.

Why Choose Parallel Parenting?

As mentioned above, parallel parenting is the preferred choice for pairs who are not able to cooperate or are high conflict. It helps to set boundaries and avoid the negative effects of constant conflict on your children.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is parallel parenting bad for kids?

Parallel parenting can actually be good for your children, because it prevents hashing out conflicts in front of the kids. It can help to make them feel more safe and secure, and makes it easier for you to help them cope with a divorce or separation. As long as the parents are truly parallel and not undermining the other parent, it can work for the best interests of the kids.

What are the 3 types of co-parenting?

There are three main categories of co-parenting. These are, as follows: parallel parenting, conflicted co-parenting, and cooperative co-parenting. Parallel parenting is the most common of these three types.

What is parallel co-parenting?

Parallel parenting is one of the different co-parenting methods out there. This particular method is when each parent has a personalized, unique parenting approach when the kids are with them. With parallel parenting, the parents will also not attend the same parenting events– such as appointments or functions. 

Does parallel parenting work?

Yes, parallel parenting can work if both parents put in the effort! It also helps to decrease the kids’ exposure to conflicts between the parents, and allows them to form healthy relationships and bonds with both parents.


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