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Parallel Parenting: What is it?

Apr 28, 2022
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Four years after my divorce, as I was leaving yet another mediation, my lawyer looked me in the eye and said, “I think it is time you start parallel parenting.” I had no idea what she was talking about. This was a term I hadn’t heard in the parenting-after-divorce world. Co-parenting was the only form of parenting I had heard of, and it seemed to be the only acceptable form of parenting, touted as the gold standard. Apparently, I was failing horribly at it. 

What is Parallel Parenting? 

On April 11, 2022, Lala Kent, Bravo reality tv celebrity, mentioned on “Watch What’s Happening Live” that she is “parallel parenting” with her ex-husband. If you wondered what she meant by parallel parenting, here is my explanation of it and how it completely changed my co-parenting relationship.

Parallel parenting is utilized in high-conflict parenting relationships, where the co-parents have little contact, only as necessary. Sometimes this looks like using a parenting app for communication, or it can be having a third party transition the child(ren) or mediate communication between the parents. Complete separation can subdue intense emotions that can arise from interactions between the parents. 

How Can Parallel Parenting Help Through Divorce?

I have found parallel parenting to be a useful tool for de-escalating conflict in co-parenting and should be mentioned early on in the divorce process, not as a last resort, like a punishment for those struggling to co-parent without conflict.

When I was going through divorce, the State of Colorado mandated all parents attend a co-parenting class before finalizing the divorce. I sat through four hours of videos of children discussing how seeing their parents argue and get divorced affected them. Not going to lie, I definitely began reconsidering divorce after watching those videos, but in reality, my divorce was 100% necessary and the best thing for me and my children.

Is Parallel Parenting the Same As Co-Parenting? 

Co-parenting without conflict does not come easily for all parents…particularly those who are divorcing. If I had been capable of co-parenting well with the other parent, I probably wouldn’t have been getting a divorce. It’s like putting up a picture of a Victoria Secret model in a Weight Watchers meeting and saying, “Ok, look like this from now on.” If I could, I would, but I can’t.

I felt as if I was doing my best to have a collaborative and cooperative relationship, but it just didn’t seem possible. I felt like a failure, especially to my kids (who I apparently was scarring for life by getting divorced).

Enter parallel parenting. I started learning to ease up on trying to control my ex’s parenting style. It wasn’t easy for me, and change was not immediate. But, as I became more comfortable with the decreased contact and separation, I noticed a change in how I was responding to interactions with my ex. No longer would I spin out for days after an email or text; now it might only take me an hour or two to process my emotions around it.

I started figuring out how I wanted to show up for my kids and myself. I developed my own set of skills for how to respond with intention instead of reacting with emotion. I credit parallel parenting for giving me the space and separation to gain awareness about my own parenting style. Now I want to share these skills I have learned with you. 

Learn How to Parallel Parent with Dr. Stef

Join me in a free Next Steps Call with Dr. Stef to learn how to use parallel parenting to make co-parenting easier.

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