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Conflicted Co-Parenting: Creating a Parallel Parenting Plan

by | Aug 14, 2023 | 0 comments

parallel parenting plan. A laptop, calendar, and clock.

The term “narcissism” on this blog is used to describe a specific set of personality traits. It is not intended to be used as a professional diagnosis.

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Divorce and separation can cause some real challenges, especially when there are children involved.

High emotions and bad feelings can lead to conflict or differences in parenting styles.

Whether that’s all temporary or your ex purposely makes things difficult, there are ways you can deal with high-conflict co-parenting.

Parallel parenting is a structured solution that allows you and your ex to do your own thing while avoiding conflict.

But it involves a lot of moving parts, including creating a parallel parenting plan.

Let’s take a look at what parallel parenting is and how you can create a plan to make your situation less stressful for you and your kiddos:


Parallel Parenting Definition

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Parallel parenting is a different approach to co-parenting that acknowledges the reality of high-conflict situations. It also recognizes that sometimes effective communication and collaboration between co-parents can be difficult or impossible.

While I mostly recommend parallel parenting if you are dealing with a narcissist, it is a great tool in those early days of separation. Consider it training wheels for parenting separately. Once the emotions have calmed down and everyone settles in, you may be able to ease up on the parallel parenting and settle into a normal co-parenting situation.

However, if you are dealing with a narcissist, parallel parenting is going to be your saving grace for avoiding conflict and maintaining control of the situation.

Basically, instead of collaborating with your ex, you both do your own parenting things with minimal interaction. You only talk about your child, and you follow plans as they are agreed upon. This helps create a structured and predictable environment for your kiddos.

Now that you know what parallel parenting is, let’s talk about what you should include in a parallel parenting plan:

What Should Be Included in a Parallel Parenting Plan?

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Creating an effective parallel parenting plan is key to parallel parenting.

A well-structured plan should address different aspects of co-parenting to make sure the best interests of the children are met while providing a framework for both parents to remain involved.

Here’s what you should consider including in your parallel parenting plan:

  • Communication Protocol: Outline how communication between parents will occur, which might involve a neutral platform or a communication book. This reduces direct contact and allows for clear, concise, and non-confrontational exchanges of information.
  • Custody Schedule: Design a detailed custody schedule that clearly defines when the children will be with each parent. This minimizes confusion and provides stability for the children.
  • Exchange Protocol: Specify the logistics of child exchanges, including location, time, and protocol. This minimizes the chances of interaction between parents during transitions.
  • Decision-Making Framework: Clarify how significant decisions regarding the children’s education, healthcare, and extracurricular activities will be made. This could involve shared decision-making or designating certain areas of authority for each parent.
  • Holiday and Special Occasions: Address how holidays and special occasions will be divided, ensuring the children can spend meaningful time with both parents and extended families.
  • Access to Information: Agree on how each parent will be informed about the children’s activities, school progress, and medical updates. This ensures both parents remain informed without direct communication.

What Are the Principles of Parallel Parenting?

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While parallel parenting has no strict rules, it does have different principles that will help promote cooperation and consistency. At the very least, it will reduce conflict and stress in the situation.

Here are the ways that parallel parenting addresses high-conflict situations while keeping your child’s needs at the forefront of everything you do:

  • Emphasize Child-Centric Approaches: The cornerstone of parallel parenting is placing the children’s needs and best interests above all else. This means refraining from using them as messengers or pawns in conflicts and instead prioritizing their emotional and psychological well-being.
  • Minimize Exposure to Conflict: The purpose of parallel parenting is to provide a buffer against the conflicts that led to its adoption. Parents should make a conscious effort to shield their children from disagreements and animosity. This involves refraining from negative comments about the other parent, especially in the children’s presence.
  • Create a Structured Routine: Predictability and consistency are key components of a successful parallel parenting arrangement. Establishing a well-defined routine for visitation, exchanges, communication, and decision-making fosters stability in the children’s lives, alleviating unnecessary stress and anxiety.
  • Acknowledge Separate Lives: Parallel parenting recognizes that parents may have differing lifestyles, rules, and approaches. Rather than attempting to synchronize these differences, parents are encouraged to respect each other’s choices and methods within their own households. This approach helps children adapt to the varying environments they experience.
  • Open Lines of Limited Communication: While the main goal is to reduce direct communication to prevent conflict, maintaining a channel for essential child-related matters is vital. Establish a system that enables efficient communication while minimizing the potential for disagreements. Consider using methods like email, text messaging, or dedicated apps designed for co-parenting communication.
  • Professional Mediation: In situations where disagreements cannot be resolved independently, involving a professional mediator or therapist can provide an objective perspective. These neutral third parties can help parents navigate sensitive topics, find common ground, and facilitate smoother communication.
  • Encourage Individuality: Children benefit from having healthy relationships with both parents. Parallel parenting promotes the idea that children should be allowed to form their own relationships and connections with each parent independently, free from influence or pressure from either side.
  • Focus on Self-Care: Parallel parenting can be emotionally draining, especially if there is a history of conflict. Parents should prioritize self-care to ensure they are emotionally and mentally equipped to handle the challenges that may arise. This might involve seeking support from friends, family, or professional counselors.
  • Flexibility Within Boundaries: While parallel parenting relies on structured routines, flexibility within those boundaries can be essential. Unexpected situations or changes might arise, and the ability to adapt and find solutions together demonstrates a commitment to the children’s well-being.
  • Long-Term Perspective: Remember that parallel parenting is often a temporary arrangement designed to minimize conflict during times of heightened tension. As time passes and emotions settle, parents may find opportunities to gradually transition into a more collaborative co-parenting model if circumstances improve.
  • By embracing these principles, parents can effectively navigate the complexities of parallel parenting while maintaining a focus on the children’s emotional health, stability, and growth.

Parallel Parenting: Nurturing Children Through High-Conflict Situations

If you’re having a hard time co-parenting with your ex, parallel parenting can be a great way to deal with the complexities of high-conflict situations – and it all starts with a plan!

Give it a try, and over time, you’ll notice less conflict, more stability, and a healthier environment for your children.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences! Share your insights on parallel parenting in the comments below.

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