Parallel Parenting: A Comprehensive Overview

In the modern world, families come in all shapes and sizes. Each family has its unique dynamics and complexities. One of these complexities arises when parents separate or divorce and must determine how to continue parenting their children. This situation calls for effective and efficient parenting methods, such as co-parenting and parallel parenting. In this blog post, we will delve into the concept of parallel parenting, its definition, its benefits and disadvantages, and how it compares to co-parenting. We will also provide useful resources such as a parallel parenting plan template, examples, books, and apps. Let’s start with the basics: What is parallel parenting?

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What is Parallel Parenting?

Parallel parenting is a strategy for divorced or separated parents where they parent in tandem, sharing physical custody of their children but having limited direct communication. This approach is often used when high-conflict situations make it difficult for parents to communicate without hostility. In parallel parenting, each parent takes responsibility for specific decisions, reducing the need for negotiation and compromise. For example, one parent may be responsible for educational decisions, while the other handles medical decisions.

The primary purpose of parallel parenting is to reduce conflict and tension between parents, ultimately protecting the child from exposure to parental disagreements. It enables parents to disengage from each other while remaining fully engaged with their children.

Parallel Parenting vs. Co-Parenting

To understand parallel parenting better, it’s essential to differentiate it from co-parenting. Co-parenting involves a high degree of communication, collaboration, and mutual decision-making between parents. In contrast, parallel parenting reduces communication to a minimum, with each parent making decisions during their parenting time.

Co-parenting is generally the preferred option as it encourages parents to work together for the benefit of their children. However, in situations where co-parenting isn’t possible due to ongoing conflict, hostility, or even cases involving a narcissistic ex-partner, parallel parenting can be a good alternative.

Parallel parenting allows each parent to have a meaningful relationship with their children, independent of the other parent. It also provides a structure that can help reduce the stress and anxiety often experienced by children in high-conflict situations.

Parallel Parenting with a Narcissist

Parallel parenting can be particularly beneficial when one parent exhibits narcissistic behaviors. Narcissists can be manipulative, controlling, and prone to creating conflict, making co-parenting difficult, if not impossible. In these situations, parallel parenting can provide a framework that limits interactions and potential conflict.

Parallel parenting with a narcissist requires setting firm boundaries and sticking to them. Communication should be limited, business-like, and focused solely on the children. The use of a “gray rock” strategy, where the parent responds with minimal emotion and engagement, can also be beneficial.

Parallel Parenting Plan

Implementing a parallel parenting plan involves creating a detailed agreement that outlines the responsibilities and boundaries for each parent. This plan can include specifications about decision-making powers, communication methods, and schedules for parenting time.

In creating a parallel parenting agreement, language is crucial. The agreement should be clear, comprehensive, and explicit to prevent misunderstandings. It should clearly outline how to divide decision-making in a parallel parenting plan and how to handle any potential issues or conflicts that may arise.

In drafting a parallel parenting plan, parents may benefit from legal or professional guidance. Resources such as sample parallel parenting plan agreements can provide a useful starting point. Additionally, some states, such as Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, and New Jersey, have specific guidelines or requirements for parallel parenting plans.

The Disadvantages of Parallel Parenting

While parallel parenting offers numerous benefits, it also has its downsides. One of the main disadvantages of parallel parenting is the limited communication between parents, which can lead to inconsistencies in rules and routines between households. This lack of consistency can be confusing for children and may lead to behavioral issues.

Another drawback is that it can be challenging to maintain a strict separation of parenting responsibilities, especially in emergencies or unforeseen circumstances. It requires significant discipline from both parents, which can be challenging in high-conflict situations.

When Parallel Parenting Doesn’t Work

There are instances when parallel parenting may not be the best solution. If there’s a high risk of violence, neglect, or abuse, a different approach may be necessary. In these cases, a “safety plan” might be more appropriate, involving supervised visitation or limited contact with the concerning parent.

Moreover, if one parent wants coparenting and the other wants parallel parenting, it can create tension and disagreements. In such cases, professional intervention like mediation, counseling, or legal advice may help parents reach a consensus.

Parallel Parenting Resources

To navigate parallel parenting successfully, several resources can aid parents. Books like “The Parallel Parenting Solution” can offer insights, strategies, and practical advice. Various online resources, including free webinars about parallel parenting, can provide additional support.

Parallel parenting apps can also be helpful. They can manage schedules, trackexpenses, and facilitate communication in a neutral environment. These digital tools can be a valuable resource for maintaining organization and minimizing direct communication.

Implementing Parallel Parenting

If you are considering parallel parenting, here are some steps you can take:

  1. Consult a Professional: Speak to a family law attorney, mediator, or counselor familiar with parallel parenting. They can provide guidance and help you draft a parallel parenting agreement.
  2. Draft a Parallel Parenting Plan: Use a parallel parenting plan template to guide you. The plan should specify the division of parenting responsibilities, communication methods, and a detailed schedule.
  3. Set Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries for communication and interactions. This aspect is particularly crucial when parallel parenting with a narcissist.
  4. Use Tools and Resources: Utilize parallel parenting apps, books, and online resources to help manage schedules, communication, and conflicts.
  5. File the Plan with the Court: In some cases, you may need to file your parallel parenting plan with the court. This process can help ensure the plan is enforceable.


Parallel parenting can be an effective strategy for managing parenting responsibilities in high-conflict situations. While it may not be the ideal choice for everyone, it can provide a viable alternative when co-parenting isn’t possible.

Implementing a parallel parenting strategy requires careful planning and clear communication. It involves setting firm boundaries, utilizing various tools and resources, and possibly seeking professional guidance. Despite the challenges, parallel parenting can offer a path towards peaceful and effective parenting post-separation, ensuring the welfare of the children remains the foremost priority.

Although it’s not an easy journey, remember that “Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” – C.S. Lewis.

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