What is parallel parenting and do you do it? Experts share 4 tips to reap the benefits of the alternative co-parenting approach

The parenting style is growing in popularity

A man and woman holding hand with a toddler in a field
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Parallel parenting is growing in popularity as an alternative to co-parenting for separated parents - but what is it and how do you do it? We asked the experts got their top tips on how to succeed at parallel parenting. 

Co-parenting is on of this decades buzzwords. But while many divorced parents rely on co-parenting boundaries to make a healthy environment for their kids post-seperation and find co-parenting tips helpful to navigate the changing relationship, others aren't so keen on the term - like Paloma Faith who recently said she doesn't like the way it 'over-compliments' men.

That's why parallel parenting is taking off - but what exactly is it? 

According to Joe and Cheryl Dillon, leading divorce mediators, relationship experts, and the co-founders of Equitable Mediation, explained, "In parallel parenting, each divorced parent views the days they have the kids, according to the parenting schedule in the divorce agreement, as their days alone. 

"On their assigned days, each parent chooses to be completely responsible for all parenting duties needed. They do everything for the kids themselves, without involving the other parent at all."

It's a simple concept and one that kids can massively benefit from. The experts added, "Kids need routine, even if they don't say so. In parallel parenting, it's always clear which parent the child will be with and who's taking care of them. This means no confusion. The child can settle into their routine, and from what we’ve seen with clients of ours, they do really well.

"There are also other ways parallel parenting can help kids indirectly. For example, many parents we know have to travel for work. With parallel parenting, they can take these trips during their off weeks. Then, when they're home with the kids, they can focus completely on being a parent. Or, on their non-parenting days, they can have some 'grown-up time' - go out with friends, hit the gym, or take care of household chores.

"In both cases, the parent doesn't feel guilty or stressed about trying to do everything at once. This means they can be their best selves when they're with their kids, which is great for the children."

So the advantages are great! But how do you make sure that you're doing parallel parenting right so you can reap the benefits? Speaking exclusively to us here at GoodTo.com, Joe and Cheryl Dillon shared their top four tips to help parents succeed with the approach and their insight is invaluable. 

1. First and foremost, remember that your children’s well-being should always be the priority. While parallel parenting might seem like the best option for you and your ex-spouse, your kids may have different feelings about it. If they are old enough to understand, have an open conversation with them. Explain what parallel parenting means and ask for their thoughts. Their input can be invaluable in making this transition smoother for everyone involved.

2. Structure is crucial in making parallel parenting work. Children thrive on routine, and a consistent schedule can provide a sense of stability during this challenging time. Sit down and create a detailed parenting plan that clearly outlines which days the children will spend with each parent. While life can sometimes throw curveballs, try to stick to this schedule as much as possible. This consistency will help your children adjust and understand their new family dynamics.

3. Even with the most meticulously planned schedules, emergencies can happen. That’s why it’s essential to have a communication plan in place for exceptional circumstances. In your divorce agreement, outline specific situations where it’s acceptable to break the usual parallel parenting boundaries. This might include family emergencies, medical situations, or other unforeseen events that require immediate attention from both parents.

4. Remember that parallel parenting doesn’t have to be a permanent arrangement. The intense emotions that often lead to this decision can subside over time. Consider setting up an annual review of your parenting plan. This could be on a significant date like your divorce anniversary or the start of the school year. Use this time to check in with each other and your children. Discuss how the arrangement is working and whether any adjustments need to be made.

In other family news, 7 traits found in adults lacking affection as kids revealed (and #3 is heartbreaking). Plus, half of parents ‘trapped’ into living near grandparents due to childcare costs - two mums share their stories. And, is this the key to raising secure children? Experts reveal importance of 'secure attachment' for kids and share 4 ways parents can create it

News writer

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse is a news writer for Goodtoknow, specialising in family content. She began her freelance journalism career after graduating from Nottingham Trent University with an MA in Magazine Journalism, receiving an NCTJ diploma, and earning a First Class BA (Hons) in Journalism at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute. She has also worked with BBC Good Food and The Independent.