Parallel Parenting: When Co-Parenting Doesn’t Work


parallel parenting

It has been six years since my divorce.

In my personal opinion, that is plenty of time to bury the hatchet, get over it, ya know…move on. For way too long, I was trying (unsuccessfully) to co-parent with the father of my children. It just was not working.

The turning point in my thinking came when I heard about Parallel Parenting.

My kids’ father and I still do not get along, and I have had to resign myself to the fact that we never will.

I have realized that’s okay.

Some people get it, but most do not understand the dynamic in situations like mine.

The Effects of Domestic Violence

The tendency is to believe that the parents are both grown-ups, and they should be able to get along for the kids’ sake. However, research suggests that 25-40 percent of women divorce because of domestic violence, and that changes everything.

Domestic violence doesn’t end when the divorce papers are signed. Often times, it gets worse. Because mental illness and personality disorders can play a part in the abuse during a marriage, emotional and financial abuse can, and usually does, continue until there is no longer any contact because of the kids.

The only way I communicate with my boys’ father is through Our Family Wizard, which is a court-ordered website that has an email feature that lawyers and our parenting coordinator can access. Even with these safeguards, simple decisions about the children are usually full of tension and involve a lot of back and forth, unnecessary negotiations.

Co-parenting, where both parents share the duties of parenting the child(ren), is the ideal. It’s what all healthy parents strive for. But, in “high-conflict” situations, or when co-parenting can’t or doesn’t happen, it can be disheartening and leave one or both parents feeling hopeless.

But There is Hope

Parallel Parenting

The more I researched Parallel Parenting, the more I knew this was the parenting style I needed to adopt. When I first divorced, all previous decisions we made together about how to raise the boys went out the window. I quickly realized I would have zero control over what happened when my kids were at their dad’s.

That was a pretty terrible realization.

In the state of Iowa, you are required to take a class when you divorce and have children together. The class, Children in the Middle, gives parents the tools to make it easier for your children. Many parents do a really good job of keeping the kids’ well-being at the forefront of the whole process.

Unfortunately, if domestic violence or mental illness is a factor, the kids can actually be used as a means to hurt the other parent. The only way to make this kind of situation better is to detach as much as possible. In comes Parallel Parenting.

Once I realized that, letting go of what happens at their father’s house, and started only focusing on what happens in my house, things became a lot easier. This faith that God will protect my boys when they are away from me is a tough thing to put into practice. It’s scary, and it’s a faith I have to renew on a daily basis. But it’s worth it. It is so worth it.

These days, I only communicate with the boys’ father when it’s absolutely necessary. Less communication seems to counterbalance what we know about good parenting, but not in high-conflict circumstances. When I know we won’t be successful working it out on our own, I bring in our parenting coordinator to help make decisions.

Knowing and implementing Parallel Parenting has made all the difference in my “high conflict” situation. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is having trouble co-parenting after a divorce.

What other tips do you have for getting along with your kids’ other parent?


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Jennifer is a single mom of two boys. She does her best to get to places on time, despite being a chronically late person and the fact that neither she or her boys are morning people. She recently went back into the classroom after staying home for nine years to raise her kids, and she credits her sanity and success at this endeavor to the fact that she has incredibly supportive parents, family, and friends. She also has a network of single moms that truly “get it” and who encourage her on a daily basis. When she’s not hanging out with her kiddos, Jennifer enjoys writing at a coffee shop, trying new restaurants, or catching up with friends.


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