The struggle of parallel parenting is real! Parallel parenting is the term given to a style of parenting that is adopted by some parents, most frequently when there is a high level of conflict and a low level of communication. What it means in practical terms is that each of you will parent differently.
When we talk about this struggle it does not necessarily apply to all. For many families, this is the best approach for the least amount of conflict and it can work extremely well. However, for some, it presents frequent challenges.
There may be one set of rules in your house, and another in the other parents home. While it would be conveniently easy to say what goes on there is none of your business, it’s also quite difficult to accept this when you feel the children aren’t being cared for as you’d wish.
There is a saying that’s appropriate here and it always comes to mind for me when helping parents through these frustrations.
Your level of happiness is determined by the difference between your expectations and reality
Having an expectation that things are going to change can be fraught with disappointment. I’m not suggesting you lower your standards or those you wish for your children, but sometimes it’s beneficial to take stock of what’s within your power and what’s not. Then work out what, or how, you might be able to influence a different outcome, and let go of everything else.
The most common issues arising for those who parallel parent are:
- Child bedtimes or other routines.
- Activities, or lack of
- Attention to homework or after school activities.
- Decisions affecting the children made without consultation.
Parallel parenting can be a challenge for one, if not both of you. When conflict is high there is a tendency for at least one parent to be quite opposed to any suggestion or routine which is adopted in the other home.
But all is not lost. There are some simple steps you can apply that will help make this path smoother.
Minimise the opportunities for conflict
This may be through minimising time spent in each others company, especially at handovers or when the children are present. It does not have to mean eliminating it altogether unless you feel that is absolutely necessary. It is helpful for the children to see you together at times, and being courteous to each other in the presence – if that is at all possible. If it’s not possible, keep contact minimal and courteous.
A common tool is for the parents to use a handover book to communicate important things about the children. This may be about changes in pick up, school uniforms, planned holidays or other occasions.
Try a communication app
There are many parent communication apps on the market today. In some cases, you can employ the services for a third-party mediator to monitor your communication or to call upon if you need help.
Choosing your battles
This is quite a big subject however with every conflict if you consider a few key questions it can help to prioritise where this sits in the hierarchy of matters to focus on.
- What will the children lose or benefit from in relation to resolving this conflict?
- How important is it to resolve this right now?
- Are my assumptions or thoughts about this outcome (the outcome you want) legitimate?
- What will be the follow-on impact of pursuing this?
- How successful is my approach likely to be?
- Is there another way to approach this?
- Is this something I can let slide?
Parallel parenting can be hard, however, it is manageable if you both can remain child-focused. Think of it as solving a puzzle. How can I piece this together so it makes more sense and is less frustrating?