Co-Parenting Versus Parallel Parenting: What’s the Difference?

Co-Parenting Versus Parallel Parenting: What’s the Difference?

By Richard E. Heller

Parenting and Divorce

When parents separate or divorce, the way they raise their children can have a significant impact on the children’s well-being. Co-parenting and parallel parenting are two different approaches to parenting after separation, and understanding the difference is crucial.

Parents often do not think about the difference between parenting together versus parenting separately. It’s not unusual for two parents to think they’re co-parenting when they’re parallel parenting. But there is a way to move from one to the other!

Studies have shown that children tend to be happier and more well-adjusted when their parents are in alignment regarding the values and logistics of their day-to-day lives. In fact, children in this situation are usually more emotionally resilient than parents who stay together but are in complete disharmony. 

The problem, of course, is that people often get divorced because they need help communicating or working together. Having children involved can further complicate this issue. The problems with communication and different perspectives combined with feelings of hurt, sadness, fear, anger, and blame can make it difficult to get on the same page regarding child-rearing. It’s common for parents in this position to start as parallel parents.

Parallel Parenting Defined

Parallel parenting occurs when parents struggle to agree on what’s best for their children. They may have different ideas about everything from screen time and homework to things even as basic as values, which can lead to disagreements and inconsistency in their children’s routines. This often leads to children playing one parent against the other and can cause significant stress and anxiety for all involved.

While it’s not uncommon for parents to start out as parallel parents during the divorce process, it’s important to work towards co-parenting. 

Co-Parenting Defined

Co-parenting occurs when parents agree on things such as bedtimes, screen time, and personal hygiene, and have a shared set of values. They communicate effectively with each other and work together to create consistent routines for their children. Co-parenting allows for more consistency in the children’s lives, making them feel safer and more secure. This consistency helps them to grow and develop as individuals.

Getting from Here to There

Moving from parallel parenting to co-parenting is not always easy, as it requires a willingness to let go of control and work together with the other parent. However, there are professionals available, such as parent coordinators, who can help parents improve communication and find common ground. It’s important to remember that co-parenting doesn’t require parents to be friends or even like each other; it’s about working together for the well-being of the children.

In conclusion, co-parenting is a no-brainer when it comes to the well-being of the children. It may take some effort, but it’s worth it, in the long run, to provide consistent and stable routines for children after a divorce. With the right mindset and support, parents can move from parallel parenting to co-parenting, creating a positive environment for their children to grow and thrive.

Richard E. Heller is a parent coordinator, relationship fitness coach, and mediator with Vesta. Rich helps parents to transform a negative relationship with conflict into one in which they resolve differences creatively. In addition, he helps them learn the tools and techniques needed to increase joy and resilience for themselves and their children.

Rich grew up in a high-conflict household and, having recovered from a narcissistic parent, is on a mission to help parents be their best selves, focusing on the well-being of the children first. Rich joined Vesta to expand this mission further.

In addition to being a child of divorce, Rich has been through the divorce process himself. This unique perspective assists him in seeing through the eyes of all the players. As a result, Rich has created a unique blend of coaching and mediation with a dash of therapy to empower his clients to become their best selves in the parenting process.

Richard went to Vassar College for his BA and Hunter School of Social Work for his MA. He received his mediation training through the Center for Understanding in Conflict and PC training through the AFCC.

Click here to learn more about Richard.

Click here to schedule an appointment with Richard.


Tel: 917-309-9045


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