Part Two, Parallel Parenting, What is it, and How Does it Compare to Co-Parenting?
As was pointed out in Part One of this three part discussion on parenting after a divorce or relational break-up, that many states, Florida in particular, are firm advocates of both parents taking equal responsibility in the continued raising and nurturing of their children, biological and/or adopted. The term “In the best interest of the child” is used to emphasize how important it is for both parents to put themselves in their children’s shoes and see how it feels and then provide the correct “fit”.
Co-parenting, where both parents share equally in decision making regarding education, medical, religious, and disciplinary concerns as well as having equal overnights with their children gives all a chance for continuing a loving, healthy relationship for parents and children. Here children do not feel pulled from one parent to the other nor do they, in most cases, feel they are responsible for their parents no longer living together. As they mature, children in a healthy, co-parenting environment gain self esteem, feel loved by both parents, and are able to gain an understanding that sometimes parents no longer love each other but they still love their children as much as ever.
While co-parenting is seen as the optimum way of continued parenting, what happens, as it sometimes does, when the parents cannot or will not allow co-parenting to work effectively? Conflict between parents is usually the cause of failure and is often so intense that children are put in the middle, having to choose which parent they prefer or even worse, being encouraged to “hate’ the other parent. Studies show that conflict between parents is one of the greatest causes of pain and uncertainty for children from broken homes. Children become afraid to show love to a parent for fear the other parent will be mad.They sometimes think they are the cause for their parents not getting along and the child’s self esteem suffers as does their confidence in themselves as lovable persons. Additionally, children learn conflict resolution revolves around anger and blaming others for their problems. Intense conflict can even result in children not wanting to be with either parent, especially as a child grows into their teenage years.
So what can be done when it appears co-parenting just isn’t working? An approach to parenting called “Parallel Parenting” has been developed which, while still allowing for many of the benefits of co-parenting such as equal decision making and overnights, has parents unable to be civil to each other, especially in front of their children, follow guidelines including:
- Using children as messengers to communicate information between parents is not allowed.
- Personal information regarding either parent is not to be shared with the other. Communication should involve only business relating to the child.
- Schedules for day to day activity such as child pick-up or drop-off, attending events, and/or change in overnights will be made in writing via e-mail, texting, or as in Florida, the special communication network for divorced or no longer living together parents, the court supervised communication system called The Wizard which is an integral part of parallel parenting.
- In highly antagonistic cases using a trained, parent conflict negotiator is advised.
- Providing qualified, child counseling on an ongoing basis for a child as well as the parents is recommended.
So much of parenting after a divorce or relational break-up depends on the willingness of each parent to put aside, at least in front of the children, their own personal conflicts and try to continue parenting in a loving and nurturing way. Courts can order co-parenting or even parallel parenting but, as the old saying goes “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink” In Part 3 of this series you will learn what is important to be concerned about as post judgment parents and tips to help with co and parallel parenting.