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When co-parenting doesn't work, try parallel parenting

Whether you divorced the other parent or you were never married to begin with, you have probably heard numerous lectures about the importance of co-parenting. Typically, family law courts and child development experts say that mothers and fathers should share responsibilities and make decisions together. In most cases, such an approach is in the best interests of the children.

But what if such an ideal arrangement simply isn't possible? What happens when simple phone conversations always turn into heated arguments about custody? What happens when meeting the other parent in person consistently evokes deep feelings of anger, fear or bitterness? What happens when nearly every interaction is full of conflict?

In such high-tension situations, parallel parenting may be the answer. While co-parenting focuses on working with the other parent and making decisions together, parallel parenting focuses on making wise decisions separately. In other words, it allows each parent the freedom to make day-to-day choices with a minimum of input from the other. Both parents remain close to their children, but they limit conversations with each other.

According to an article on Huffington Post, here are some tips for making parallel parenting effective:

  • When you do need to communicate with the other parent, use a third party to mediate the discussion.
  • Instead of verbal messages, try communicating by email or through a notebook passed back and forth.
  • Create a very detailed parenting plan, which can reduce uncertainly and conflict.
  • Think of the other parent like a business client, and work to maintain a business-like attitude.
  • Keep reminding your children that they can rely on both parents, and that both parents love them. Even if you can't stand your ex, don't poison your child's relationship with him or her.

Remember that you can always consider co-parenting down the road. Although it may not be possible now, the passage of time may dampen hostilities and make it easier to collaborate with the other parent in the future.

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