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What Is Parallel Parenting

If you have made the difficult decision to separate from your partner, it is likely that you will want to ensure that your children continue to have a healthy and supportive relationship with both parents. Unfortunately, it is all too common for relationships between separated parents to become strained and uncooperative, meaning that traditional co-parenting often does not work effectively. This is where the idea of ‘parallel parenting’ comes in. ‘Parallel parenting’ provides a way for a child to be cared for by both parents but in a way that minimises the interaction between parents. In this article, we will discuss what parallel parenting is, how it differs from co-parenting, and how to parallel parent with a narcissist.

Understanding parallel parenting

‘Parallel parenting’ enables both separated parents to stay involved in in the lives of their children but at the same time minimising the amount of direct communication with each other. Parallel parenting relies on a clear and structured plan that sets out the responsibilities of both parents when it comes to raising their children, with the end goal of reducing the need for frequent interaction. Using this approach to parenting, while both parents maintain involvement with their children, they do so independently of one another rather than through collaboration or negotiation. The benefit of this approach is that it reduces the potential for conflict between parents and the harm that this can do to children. This is because children are shielded from witnessing or becoming embroiled in disputes, making it easier for them to feel safe and supported.

How parallel parenting differs from co-parenting

Parallel parenting and co-parenting keep both parents involved in the raising of their children, but there are some key differences. With co-parenting, both parents work together to raise their children through regular communication and shared decision-making. For many families, co-parenting provides an ideal solution post-divorce because it allows both parents to be involved in key decisions relating to their children, including schooling, health, religion, and other important matters. The reality is that while this may be ideal, it is not always possible, especially if there are high levels of animosity or if there is a background of domestic abuse. In such circumstances, parallel parenting allows contact between parents to be reduced by putting in place clear guidelines for communication and responsibilities.

With parallel parenting, instead of shared decision-making, each parent has control over certain aspects of the child’s life when the child is in their care. For instance, one parent might handle schooling and decisions relating to education while the other parent might focus on healthcare. Using this approach, each parent is normally only responsible for providing information to the other if and when needed.

Developing a parallel parenting plan

A parallel parenting plan normally sets out clear rules and responsibilities for both parents, including:

  • Parenting time schedules – i.e. set times and dates for each parent’s custody or visitation, ensuring that transitions are smooth and predictable.

  • Decision-Making - specific areas where each parent will have primary decision-making authority will be set out. For example, one parent may manage medical decisions while the other handles educational decisions.

  • Communication - parallel parenting plans normally include guidelines for communication. This may be by restricting contact to specific methods such as emails or a shared online calendar. Face-to-face or phone contact is minimised unless necessary to reduce the chance of any disagreements.

  • Rules and Boundaries - this clarifies what is considered acceptable behaviour, including rules around discussing the other parent in front of the children and managing disputes without involving them.

How to parallel parent with a narcissist

Parenting with a narcissist can be particularly challenging due to their manipulative, controlling, or self-centred behaviour. Again, this is where parallel parenting can be extremely useful and effective by protecting both you and your children from unnecessary conflict. If your ex-partner is a narcissist, you can use parallel parenting to limit the amount of communication with them. This is important because narcissists often provoke emotional responses or manipulate conversations. By minimising the potential for such interactions, keeping communication brief and to the point, and only using written methods like emails or text messages rather than verbal discussions, you can avoid the negative impact of their narcissistic behaviour.

Another way is to maintain strong boundaries between you and your ex. Use the parallel parenting plan to clearly define what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. For instance, you may specifically include a rule to avoid sharing personal information or discussing past conflicts. If the other parent tries to violate these boundaries, calmly reiterate your expectations and disengage.

Even with a parallel parenting plan in place, narcissists may still find a way to push the boundaries. If this happens and you are struggling to avoid conflict, consider seeking the help of a mediator or family law Solicitor. They can help facilitate communication, enforce the parenting plan, and resolve disputes in a way that prioritises the children’s well-being.


Parallel parenting provides an effective way for conflicting separated parents to stay involved in the lives of their children without causing further emotional harm. By establishing a clear plan that reduces direct interaction, parents can minimise the potential for disputes while ensuring that their children have stable, nurturing relationships with both of them. Although parallel parenting may initially feel rigid compared to traditional co-parenting, it can ultimately help create a peaceful environment where children can thrive.


Guillaumes LLP Solicitors is a full-service law firm based in Weybridge, Surrey. We have a highly experienced family law team who can assist you with all relationship matters. To make an appointment, please call us on 01932 840 111.

28 May 2024
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