Co-parenting or Parallel Parenting: What is the difference and which style is better for your children?

Divorces or breakups don’t have to be the end of any possible healthy relationship between children, their parents, and their family dynamic. There can still be a balanced, healthy, and positive relationship between parents and their children after splitting. However, most splitting parents have trouble deciding what type of dynamic to use in order to parent their children going forward.


What is Co-Parenting?

Co-parenting describes a relationship with two parents of a child that are no longer romantically involved with each other, however they still assume responsibility to take care of and raise the child together. This type of parenting situation usually follows a separation, divorce, break up, or sometimes in the situation where the parents never planned on being in a relationship.

Co-parenting relationships are characterized by the decision to put aside personal differences and instead focus on the shared goal of their children’s development and happiness. Co-parents usually implement a parenting plan that they both stick to in order to practice healthy co-parenting. These relationships are not always easy and often require ongoing communication, problem solving, and the acceptance of mutual responsibility.

Some benefits for children of co-parenting are:

  • Children’s increased sense of security

  • Children's increased sense of self worth

  • Decrease in children’s sense of guilt for enjoying/not enjoying time at each parents’ house

  • Decrease in children’s sense of stress and anxiety at each parents’ house

  • Positive example of healthy communication and problem solving in children’s lives

  • Better relationships and communication with both parents

Some benefits for parents of co-parenting are:

  • Emotional support between the parents and partners

  • Reduced conflicts and stress between parents and partners

  • Breaks from parenting, allowing parents to heal from possible divorce/breakup trauma, or reset

What is Parallel Parenting?

Parallel Parenting, in contrast has much less involvement and interaction between parents. This type of parenting is instead an arrangement in which the broken up, separated, or divorced parents raise their child by disengaging from each other. There is very limited direct contact between the parents, while it does not take away from the full contact between themselves and their children. For high conflict families, or for parents that aren’t able to engage with each other in a respectful manner on a day to day basis, parallel parenting may as well be the best answer.

With parallel parenting in place, parents assume that each is doing the best in making the choices for their children at each house on a day to day basis, and keep their opinions to themselves unless it’s about a major decision regarding the child’s upbringing or health.

Some benefits of parallel parenting for both children and parents can be:

  • Less stress from built up hostilities between parents

  • The building of a possible future foundation for co-parenting

  • Time for parents after a breakup or divorce to settle their feelings or differences on their own without involving their children

  • Restoration of trust and abilities in parenting from both sides over time

  • Shields children from toxic family situations and parental conflict

Which form of parenting is better for children of divorce or separation?

While both types of parenting are extremely different, they each have pros for children and their parents. Neither is considered better in general for all parents, and figuring out the best, most healthy path for your family is what is most important. Make sure to do your research, seek knowledgeable counsel, and most importantly put your children first when making parenting choices!

What type of parenting does your family practice and what do you think are the pros and cons?

Cassandra CortrightComment