Parallel Parenting vs. Co Parenting: Which is a Better Post-Divorce Parenting Approach?

parallel parenting vs co parenting

Parenting after a split or separation can be hard, but it’s important to learn how to co-parent well for the sake of your kids. Co-parenting and parallel parenting are two methods that parents who are split or separated often think about. While both aim to ensure the children’s best interests are met, they differ significantly in their approach and level of cooperation between parents.

What is Co-Parenting?

Co-parenting is a collaborative parenting approach that emphasizes joint effort and communication between both parents, even after the end of their romantic relationship. It involves regular and transparent communication, joint decision-making regarding the children’s upbringing, and a shared commitment to prioritizing the children’s needs above all else.

This approach requires flexibility, compromise, and a willingness to work together to ensure the children’s well-being and stability, despite the challenges of separation or divorce. Here are the key features of co-parenting:

  • Open Communication: Regular and transparent communication between parents is essential to co-parenting. This includes discussing schedules, school events, health issues, and any other matters concerning the children.
  • Cooperation: Both parents are actively involved in decision-making regarding their children’s education, health care, and overall well-being.
  • Flexibility: Co-parents often need to be flexible with schedules and arrangements to accommodate each other’s needs and the needs of the children.
  • Respect: Co-parents respect each other’s parenting styles and decisions, even if they don’t always agree.

What is Parallel Parenting?

Parallel parenting is a structured way to co-parent that is often used when there is a lot of strife and it’s hard for parents to talk to each other directly. Unlike co-parenting, which emphasizes collaboration and joint decision-making, parallel parenting minimizes interaction between parents and allows each parent to make decisions independently during their parenting time.

This approach aims to reduce conflict and tension between parents by creating clear boundaries and reducing the need for direct communication, thereby providing a more stable and less contentious environment for the children. Here are the key features of parallel parenting:

  • Limited Communication: Parents don’t talk to each other very often, and when they do, they usually only share important information.
  • Distinct Parenting Time: Each parent has clearly defined parenting time, and they are responsible for making decisions regarding the children during their time.
  • Minimal Interaction: Parents avoid interacting with each other during exchanges or other shared events involving the children.
  • Focus on Children’s Well-Being: Despite the limited interaction between parents, the focus remains on meeting the children’s emotional and physical needs.

Co-Parenting vs. Parallel Parenting: A Comparison

To better understand the differences between parallel parenting and co-parenting, here are some perspectives that can help you:


Co-Parenting: The emphasis is on maintaining open and frequent communication between both parents. Making sure that both parents are aware of and involved in their children’s lives is impossible without this communication. This includes talking about the kids’ daily routines, school events, doctor’s appointments, and any other important news. This level of communication helps create a sense of continuity and stability for the children, as they can rely on both parents being on the same page and working together for their well-being.

Parallel Parenting: Communication is more limited and focused on essential information only. People often use this method when there is a lot of tension and talking to each other directly could lead to arguments or fights. In parallel parenting, people usually talk to each other through written forms, like emails or text messages, so that there aren’t any mistakes or arguments. While this may seem less personal, it can be an effective way to ensure that communication remains focused on the children’s needs and avoids unnecessary conflicts between the parents.


Co-Parenting: Both parents are involved in making decisions about their kids’ schooling, health care, and other important parts of their upbringing. This way of working together makes sure that both parents have a say on important issues. It also allows for a more balanced and well-rounded decision-making process, as both parents bring their perspectives and insights to the table. This involvement of both parents helps create a sense of continuity and stability for the children, as they can rely on both parents being involved and invested in their well-being.

Parallel Parenting: During parenting time, each parent makes decisions on their own, without talking to the other parent. This approach is often adopted in high-conflict situations where direct communication between parents is challenging or unproductive. While this approach allows for more autonomy for each parent, it can also lead to inconsistencies in decision-making and parenting styles between households. However, by allowing each parent to make decisions independently, parallel parenting aims to reduce conflict and create a more stable environment for the children.

Level of Cooperation

Co-Parenting: A high level of cooperation and collaboration between parents is essential to ensuring consistency and stability for the children. At this level of cooperation, both sides talk to each other often, are willing to agree, and are ready to work together to make decisions that are best for the kids. Co-parents need to be flexible and accommodating, putting aside any personal differences to focus on the well-being of their children. For this method to work, both parents must be very determined to put their children’s needs ahead of all else.

Parallel Parenting: Minimal cooperation between parents is required, with each parent focusing on their relationship with the children rather than their relationship with each other. This method is often used when there is a lot of tension and talking to the parents directly is hard or doesn’t work. Parallel parenting tries to make things easier for everyone so that there is less need for cooperation. This should lead to less fighting and a more stable setting for the kids. However, this approach can also lead to a lack of consistency between households, as each parent may have different rules and expectations for the children.

Conflict Resolution

Co-Parenting: Parents are encouraged to work together to resolve conflicts and disagreements in a respectful and constructive manner. This approach recognizes that disagreements are a natural part of co-parenting but emphasizes the importance of handling them in a way that prioritizes the well-being of the children. Co-parents are told to talk to each other honestly, hear each other out, and find areas where they agree to settle disagreements. This collaborative approach not only helps parents find solutions to their disagreements but also models positive conflict resolution skills for the children.

Parallel Parenting: Stresses the need to avoid fights as much as possible by limiting parents’ direct contact and focusing on making decisions together. This approach recognizes that, in some situations, direct communication between parents may lead to conflicts and tensions that are not conducive to effective co-parenting. By minimizing direct interaction, parallel parenting aims to reduce the risk of conflicts escalating and create a more peaceful co-parenting environment. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that while parallel parenting may help reduce conflict, it may also mean that parents don’t talk to each other as much, which can affect their kids’ sense of security and consistency.

Which Approach is Right for You?

Whether you choose co-parenting or parallel parenting depends on your situation, such as how much conflict you have with the other parent, how well you can communicate, and what your children need. In some cases, a combination of both approaches may be necessary, with co-parenting used for less contentious issues and parallel parenting for more challenging situations.

Regardless of the approach you choose, the most important thing is to prioritize your children’s well-being and work towards creating a stable and loving environment for them. If you’re having trouble co-parenting, get help from family, friends, or a professional therapist or counselor. They can give you advice and help you deal with the challenges of parenting after a split or separation.

Finally, parallel parenting and co-parenting are two different ways to raise a child after a split or separation. Each has its own pros and cons. You should find a method that works best for you and your kids, taking into account your specific situation and how well you and the other parent can work together. You can have a good co-parenting relationship that works for everyone if you focus on your kids’ needs and well-being.


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