Once the divorce is final, children will blossom most through healthy co-parenting. Studies have shown that it is the conflict more so than the divorce that causes psychological harm to our children. Co-parenting involves creating a collaborative, mutually respectful partnership for the sake of the children. It includes communication, cooperation, flexibility, joint decision making, mutual support of the other parent with the children, and most importantly, child-centered decision making.
However, many divorces are contentious and subsequent parenting is fraught with antipathy. If these rules on healthy co-parenting seem impossible and leave you wondering how to navigate your post-divorce parenting reality, you may need to adjust your approach to co-parenting. In fact, it is not only unrealistic but can damage both you and your children to attempt to co-parent when mutual cooperation is unfeasible.
What Is Parallel Parenting?
Parallel Parenting is a style of co-parenting best suited for those that have experienced a high-conflict divorce, or if you are parenting with an ex who is abusive, struggles with addiction or has a mental illness such as narcissism, bipolar, schizophrenia or other personality disorders. In these situations, parallel parenting may be your only option.
Parallel parenting involves accepting the limitations of your ex and creating the healthiest parenting situation for your children. This approach includes less communication between parents and less shared celebrations, events and activities. During negotiations, you are well served to negotiate for sole decision making, if possible, to avoid conflict. Plan for a lack of flexibility with the custody schedule as well. Finally, create a healthy support system of fellow parents who can both support and help you through the challenges of single parenting.
3 Secrets of Successful Parallel Parenting
Communication MUST be unemotional and business-like. Bill Eddy created an acronym that is incredibly helpful. BIFF stands for Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm. Keep to the facts. Share only needed information. Don’t be rude but do be concise. Know your purpose for communicating and state it firmly.
Use an online parenting app. Today there are many options for online scheduling. Platforms such as OurFamilyWizard.com enable you to share schedules, expenses, and even communication in a safe and structured setting. Communication cannot be altered and professionals can be invited in to help settle conflicts.
Turn conflicts into life lessons. When your children struggle with or are hurt by your ex’s behavior, focus on the lesson and not the behavior. The other parent may never change, so focusing on them being “wrong” is not only ineffective, but you lose the opportunity to help your children learn how to successfully navigate a difficult situation.
Listen to how they feel and what they are struggling with. Make sure you acknowledge and validate where they are and what they are feeling is a rational response given their circumstances. Be solution oriented by asking them questions and helping them find solutions (don’t tell, ask).
What did they learn? How might they handle things differently next time? What would they want to say to mom/dad next time? Is there a boundary that they need to set and how can they do that? Be patient; children love both their parents. They have their own pace for accepting the limitations of their parents and will find their own way to do so.
When you choose to focus on your children’s growth rather than your ex-spouse’s inept behavior, you turn lemons into lemonade. You are teaching your children valuable life lessons around navigating difficult personalities, accepting people as they are, and choosing your course given that reality. Parallel parenting allows you to liberate yourself from the unconstructive behaviors of your ex while minimizing the negative impact your ex has on you and your children.
Parallel parenting is not easy; it requires personal dedication, external encouragement, and experienced support. Learn more about successful co-parenting strategies at Journey Beyond Divorce.