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Parallel Parenting: Do's and Don'ts

Are you navigating parallel parenting? Read on for the most important dos and don'ts of effective parallel parenting!

When a couple with children splits up, deciding how to share parenting responsibilities is one of the most challenging questions they’ll face. In situations where the relationship is high-conflict, parallel parenting may be the best option.

You may be asking, “What is parallel parenting”? In parallel parenting, you and your ex utilize good parenting skills while creating a plan that lets you minimize contact and share child custody.1

Think of it like driving on a highway with multiple lanes. You and your parallel parent have the same goal: raising a healthy and happy child. But you aren’t traveling there together—you’re each in your car, staying in your lane and keeping a safe distance. If you think parallel parenting might work for you, read on as we cover the do’s and don’ts of this parenting method, along with tips on creating an effective parallel parenting plan.

What is Parallel Parenting?

Parallel parenting differs from co-parenting in that you’ll keep contact with your ex-partner to the absolute minimum. You won’t see each other during pick-ups and drop-offs, won’t call to arrange last-minute plans, and won’t check in about parenting decisions. It’s an arrangement that allows separated parents to function independently while shielding children from conflict.

Parallel parenting is a good choice in situations where:1

  • Hostility or parental conflict is high
  • The parental relationship included violence or abuse
  • There’s a lack of trust or cooperation between parents
  • A court order or legal agreement limits contact between parents

To make parallel parenting work, parents need to create a detailed parenting agreement that covers exactly how custody will be split, how pick-ups and drop-offs will work, and how changes in plans will be handled. If both parents stick to the plan, you’ll minimize the need to contact each other and cut out much of the co-parenting conflict.

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Effects of Parallel Parenting

When caregivers split up, the ex-partners feel pressure to strive for a close co-parenting arrangement. It’s natural to want a “good divorce,” where parents are on friendly terms and can coexist at birthday parties and school functions.2 In reality, this isn’t possible for everyone. Don’t shame yourself if minimal contact with your ex is your healthiest choice.

The parallel parenting situation isn’t a bad thing. It can have many positive effects on both adults and children. Parallel parenting can:

  • Reduce conflict in front of children
  • Manage parental stress and anxiety
  • Allow both parents to have autonomy and flexibility
  • Help both parents maintain a close relationship with the child
  • Reduce resentment and frustration over time
  • Help parents detach from each other and avoid reopening old wounds
  • Maintain physical or emotional boundaries for parents where abuse or conflict has been high

How to Communicate With Your Co-parent

While parallel parenting aims to keep communication to a minimum, you’ll have to contact your ex-partner sometimes. When you do, you can improve your communication outcomes by:3

  • Staying focused – Avoid rehashing old problems or conflicts. Keep your focus on the present issue that needs to be worked out.
  • Keeping your child out of it – Wait to contact your co-parent until you’re sure your child won’t overhear the conversation. 
  • Taking your time – If you’ve just found out about a problem or you’re angry about how your co-parent handled something, wait to contact them until you’ve cooled off to avoid high-conflict situations. 

The Do's of Parallel Parenting

To help ensure a successful parallel parenting arrangement, keep these do’s in mind: 

  • Do put your child first by assisting them to maintain a relationship with their other parent
  • Do be respectful and courteous when communicating
  • Do take the high road and leave the past in the past
  • Do be clear, specific, and concise when making plans

The Don'ts of Parallel Parenting

While parallel parenting can be beneficial for some co-parents and their children, falling into the don’ts of parallel parenting can lead to conflict and negative outcomes. To avoid this, consider these don’ts: 

  • Don't criticize your co-parent in front of your children
  • Don't use your children as pawns
  • Don't try to parent your co-parent
  • Don't make assumptions or jump to conclusions

6 Tips for Parallel Parenting

If you and your ex-partner believe that parallel parenting is best for your situation, take a look below at some helpful tips you can use when putting your plan into action. 

  1. Spell out all the details of your parenting plan in writing. Be clear and specific about days and times for pick-ups and drop-offs, who has which holidays, and what happens if someone has to cancel.
  2. Consider involving a neutral third party, such as a mediator, family therapist, or social worker when creating the plan. 
  3. Choose a neutral, public location for pick-up/drop-off, and arrive on time. Be respectful of your co-parent’s time.
  4. Stick to the plan unless it’s an emergency. Don’t push your ex-partner for changes unless necessary. If changes are necessary, contact your co-parent in writing so that there’s a record of the new agreement.
  5. Use a shared parenting notebook to keep each other informed. At the end of every visit, note everything your co-parent needs to know: Health and behavioral issues, doctor visits, issues with sleep or food, information about school and friends, etc. 
  6. Let your co-parent parent. Parallel parenting only reduces conflict as long as both parents respect the agreement and don’t try to control each other. If your child is safe, let your ex run their household how they choose.

Help Your Child Thrive in Tough Times with Slumberkins

Navigating a separation can be a bumpy road, but parallel parenting can be a good option for some families. As you find your way along this new road, remember to treat your child and yourself with compassion and kindness. Self-care for parents is important to help you maintain balance as your family navigates parallel parenting.

If your child could use a little extra reassurance that they’re always loved and safe with you, Slumberkins has resources that can help. Our Resilience Collection can show your child they have the inner strength and courage to handle anything that comes their way.


  1. Kruk, Edward. "Parallel parenting after divorce." Psychology Today. 1 September, 2013. 
  2. Amato PR, Kane JB, James S. Reconsidering the "Good Divorce". Fam Relat. 2011 Dec;60(5):511-524. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3729.2011.00666.x. PMID: 22125355; PMCID: PMC3223936.
  3. "Co-parenting communication guide." Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. Published 2011. 

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