In a recent interview, Jon Gosselin of the former reality show, Jon & Kate Plus 8, talked about the virtually non-existent relationship he has with his ex-wife, Kate. Communications are kept to brief emails or text messages. He either picks up the kids at the bus stop or when the nanny brings them to Kate’s gate, so they never have to see or talk to each other. For the time being, this is the best scenario for the kids.
This type of arrangement is not as odd as you might think. Approximately 35-40 percent of divorced couples are unable to get along and co-parent effectively. When cooperative co-parenting is not possible, a parallel parenting plan like Jon & Kate use is a workable alternative that takes the kids out of the middle and allows each parent to lead completely separate lives while raising their children.
What parallel parenting means:
Parallel parenting minimizes the amount of contact the parents have with one another when it comes to the kids by allowing each parent to set their own parameters. Usually the children have their own bedrooms, clothing, toys, food, and other stuff at each house to provide stability for the children and minimize communications between the parents.
This also means the rules and daily routines vary from one household to another. Although this may be a little confusing for the kids initially, they quickly adjust once they learn what the boundaries are in each household. For example, Johnny may not have to have to brush his teeth before bedtime at Dad’s house, but when he’s with Mom, he knows he has to brush and floss.
While each parent is free to make everyday decisions about the kids regarding homework, meals, and bedtime without consulting with the other parent, major decisions such as health, education, and safety usually require parental communication which can be through a mediator or counselor.
Of course, if domestic violence is an issue or the child needs protection from a parent, all bets are off and the courts will decide on parenting arrangements that are in the child’s best interests.
The benefits of parallel parenting:
Consider parallel parenting as a type of business arrangement where both partners have limited contact with one another. Just as in a business relationship, partners (parents) do not get involved in one another’s personal lives and focus solely on their primary target (the kids). They work side-by-side (parallel) without interactions that can cause conflict. The benefits of parallel parenting include:
- Very limited interaction between parents
- The freedom for each parent to use their own parenting style without interference from the other parent
- A detailed parenting plan that outlines schedules and neutral child sharing exchanges
- Maintaining their own relationship with doctors, teachers, coaches, and friends without the need to consult with the other parent
- Giving children the ability to have a meaningful relationship with each parent without being directly exposed to conflict
Naturally, co-parents who can work together with the understanding that the other parent is important in their child’s life is the best option. However, parents who are in high-conflict with one another can disengage while remaining fully connected to their children. The main concept behind parallel parenting is to reduce conflict between parents which enables children to adjust better after the divorce.