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I can’t stand my ex, now how can I co-parent?

This is a question many separated or divorced parents face as they move from partners and parents to solely parents. Separation and divorce can really bring out the worst in people and then you add on the stress of the unknown and the emotional turmoil divorce and separation bring and a high conflict marriage can easily turn into high conflict parenting. For parents who can’t get along no matter what they’ve tried, a focus on co-parenting may not be the best route. For high conflict parents, parallel parenting may be the best option to turn the temperature down and really focus on what’s in your control while caring for your children. Parallel parenting takes the pressure off of the parents to interact with each other and limits the communication to only about the children. The focus comes off of the parents and onto the children by setting boundaries that are necessary to move from a high conflict parenting relationship and decrease stress on the entire family system.

Co-parenting is where the parents work together to raise their children. The parents have a united front, work through issues that come up and come to solutions together. The parents will have the same rules at their homes to create consistency and work together to parent the children. Co-parenting requires a lot of communication. Co-parents will attend the children’s school events and extracurricular activities in a civil manner together. Co-parents often share the same parenting approach and can agree on how to raise their children. Co-parents can communicate civilly in person, on the phone, text message, e-mail, etc., without attacking one another and fighting.

Parallel parenting is where the parents interact as little as possible while having individual relationships with their children. Parallel parenting does not involve the other parent in day to day decisions. Each parent has their own set of rules at their house and does not communicate with the other parent when making day to day decisions during their time with the children. The parents do not attend school and extracurricular activities together and will attend those events only during their time with the children. The parents should communicate as little as possible and only in writing about the children to decrease the chance of conflict. Significantly, each parent has to accept that they cannot control what happens at the other parent’s house no matter what the parenting dynamic is. The Parenting Plan can always have parameters but at the end of the day the only thing in your control is what you do and how you respond when or if the other parent is not acting in the best interests of the children.

Removing the pressure to co-parent even for a short period of time following a contentious custody battle may be the best thing you can do for yourself and your children. You may need to continue to use the parallel parenting model on a long term basis depending how things go if you try and switch to a co-parenting model. If you try to communicate more or attend the same events for your child and it results in arguments and becomes heated then it’s probably best to stick with the parallel parenting model until a real change occurs that can allow for more civil communication. Sometimes less is more especially when it comes to communicating with your ex.

Cara Schlosser