You may have gotten a divorce or separated from your partner, in order to end a toxic or abusive relationship. However, if you have a child together, your relationship does not end because you are no longer together. You and your ex are going to have to find a good way to communicate because of your child, which is not always easy.
Your child needs a relationship with both their parents. However, having to be in almost constant communication and have face-to-face meetings with your ex may be too much for you to handle.
For the sake of your child, you may want to try parallel parenting. This practice can keep the relationship between you and your ex tolerable (if not amicable).
What is Parallel Parenting?
If your relationship with your ex ended with you being on bad terms, your anger and perhaps dislike for your ex does not end when your relationship is over. At this point, parallel parenting may work for you.
In parallel parenting, the amount of interaction you have with your ex is minimized, which can lead to less fighting in front of your child.
Parallel parenting gives you and your ex a way to detach from each other and choose how to parent your child when they are in your care.
How is Parallel Parenting Different from Co-Parenting?
With co-parenting, ex-spouses come together to raise their child in a healthy environment. While they may still have bad feelings toward each other, they have found a way to get along for the sake of the child.
In a parallel parenting situation, everything is separate. You would not be attending doctor’s appointments, school functions, or your child’s extracurricular activities together, as you would in a co-parenting situation. Instead, your communication would be kept to a minimum and occur only when necessary.
What Are the Benefits of Parallel Parenting?
Parallel parenting can be a beneficial situation for you, your ex, and your child. It helps you prevent your child from witnessing conflicts between you and your ex. This strategy can be in the best interest of everyone involved.
Your child may feel more secure and safer, and this tactic can help them cope with the divorce or separation. You can also use it as a step toward co-parenting further down the road.
Parallel parenting may also allow you and your ex to heal your wounds and allow your resentment toward each other to fade over time. At this point, you and your ex may be able to resume communication without getting into an argument every time you see each other.
In order for parallel parenting to work effectively, any communication between you and your ex should be businesslike and unemotional. Keep it brief, keep it informative, keep it friendly, be firm, and stick to the facts. Do not be rude or mean.
You and your ex can also utilize an online parenting app (such a OurFamilyWizard), which keeps track of schedules and expenses and allows you and your ex to communicate in an extremely structured environment. You and your ex can also agree to communicate exclusively via email. However, be careful with emails. Anything you put in an email can be used against you in court.
Additionally, turn any conflict into a lesson for your child. If your child is hurting because of your ex’s behavior, focus on the lesson to be learned, not the behavior. Focusing on the other parent being wrong is not effective, and you will lose the opportunity to teach your child how to handle conflict.
Listen to the way your child feels, and validate their feelings. Then ask them questions that help them find solutions. Do not tell them the solution. Help them arrive at the conclusion on their own.
Parallel parenting can also reduce stress in your life because communication with your ex is kept to a bare minimum.
How Can I Create My Own Parallel Parenting Plan?
While a co-parenting plan may have some flexibility, a parallel parenting plan is extremely precise, in order to avoid as much communication between you and your ex as humanly possible. To prevent possible problems, you should present your completed plan to the family court for their approval. Then you can make sure the arrangements you and your ex have worked out are final.
Here are the steps to create a parallel parenting plan for you and your family:
- Splitting Time with Your Child: You and your ex will have to specify in great detail where your child will spend holidays, vacations, and birthdays.
- Start and End Times for Visitation: To ensure there is no confusion or misunderstandings, your parallel parenting plan should include the exact pick-up and drop-off times for you and your ex.
For example, you may have your child on Sunday night at 7 p.m. through Friday’s school drop-off, and your ex may have them starting after school on Friday through 7 p.m. on Sunday.
- Pick-ups and Drop-Off Locations: Because your goal is to limit communication between you and your ex, it is imperative that you choose neutral ground for pick-ups and drop-offs. This spot can be a parking lot or some other location where your child can quickly be moved from one car to the other.
- Your Plan for Handling Disputes: If your parallel parenting plan is successful, any disputes should be kept to a bare minimum. However, remember that no plan is perfect, especially when your ex is being difficult.
If you anticipate any problems, you can ask the court to appoint a mediator to help you and your ex settle any disputes.
Having a good parallel parenting plan in place is a great way to protect your child from endless hostility and fighting between you and your spouse. While it encourages you and your ex to be separate, it also allows for a cooling-off period. Therefore, you and your ex can work through your hurt, anger, and hostility toward your child’s other parent.