Most parents who get divorced want to create the best possible future relationship for their children’s sake. Studies show conflict between divorced partners can be damaging to kids, while most thrive when their parents get along.
However, for some former spouses, minimizing conflict isn’t always easy, especially when infidelity or neglect occurred during the relationship. The mission for those parents is finding a style that works that makes their kids feel safe and loved.
Co-parenting vs. parallel parenting
Divorced couples typically fall under two styles of parenting when their marriage ends. These are:
- Co-parenting: Both parties are able to communicate and continue to make decisions together regarding their kids’ well-being. They frequently talk, remain flexible, respect one another and occasionally they may even attend family events together.
- Parallel parenting: One or both of these individuals wants as little to do as possible with the other parent. They often feel this is the only way to minimize conflict and protect their kids from those negative feelings.
These are two extremes, and most people fall somewhere in the middle. One parent may lean toward co-parenting, while the other would be more comfortable with parallel parenting.
Figuring out a parenting style
Since most people do not fall on either edge of this spectrum, a good way to judge the best approach for your family is by asking four questions:
- How much contact do you want with your former partner?
- How much contact can both of you stand without experiencing anger or arguing?
- How important is it to both of you that you get along for your kids’ sake?
- What can you do to ensure that your kids will live in two peaceful homes?
It’s crucial to be honest when answering these questions. Hoping for the best but ignoring reality can cause more harm to children.
Create a parenting plan
Regardless of whether you and your ex can communicate respectfully, establishing an all-encompassing parenting agreement is crucial. This document should spell out when you’ll spend time with your kids, including holidays, birthdays and vacations. It should also detail how to make decisions over education, health and other vital issues.
A parenting agreement should be created based on the needs of the children and not the adults. Those with a co-parenting relationship can be flexible on the details when it makes sense. However, for those best suited for parallel parenting, it provides a detailed plan that both sides must follow.