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When Co-Parenting with the Psycho Ex Does Not Work

Photographer: anankkml, www.freedigitalphotos.net

I am so sick of the term Co-Parenting. You cannot imagine the number of times my ex, as well as my husbands ex, has told us that we must Co-Parent with them. How can we possibly co-parent with people whom we have so many issues? If we were all so adept at co-parenting we may not all be divorced (well actually we would, but you get the point).

Are there truly that many ex-spouses out there that get along so well that parenting together works? Out of all the divorced couples who I know that share children, there is only one I can think of where co-parenting actually works. I know I was raised in a family where my parents divorced when I was 7 years old, and I am positive they did not co-parent. In fact, I do not believe that my parents have said one word to each other since I was 9 years old. Some how I managed to survive my childhood and share all pertinent information with both of my parents.

Now here I am, 35 years old and dealing with my own set of exes, whom I wish to never speak with again. You cannot imagine the drama and turmoil they have caused in our lives. There was the several months that the exes began dating each other and thought that was a terrific idea–no I am not kidding. My ex-husband dated my current husband’s ex-wife (after we became engaged to be married). Then there was the constant stream of 10-page emails trying to tell us what to do and how to live our lives. I think my favorite is the hate rag which is currently being published. This is where one ex-spouse goes on and on about how horrid we are and makes things up just to have a story. Can you imagine co-parenting with these people?

My husband and I did try to play nice in the beginning; however, it soon became a war we did not want. So we cut the exes off. We began to parent in our home and trust that they were parenting well in theirs. When I say trust, I am referring to a very loose translation. Maybe I better way to say it is we had to give up control and realize that as long as there was not something that a court would consider worth merit, we had to just let the other parents parent the way they see fit. Our time is our time, and their time is theirs. We cannot control how they do things and more than they can control how we do things.

Again, we were constantly being told we were wrong. That is not how you do things when you are divorced. You must CO-PARENT!!!!

So you can imagine the relief I felt yesterday when my husband came home with a new term which had been shared with him, “Parallel Parenting”. What is that? My mind was spinning with wonder. I had to know everything about this term, parallel parenting. It had the sound of something I was sure would work for us, even if the other parents still demanded “co-parenting.”

Psychologists describe the actions of children who do not have the skills to interact yet still play near each other as parallel play. These children are each doing their own thing with the shared toys but are ignoring each other. Similarly, parallel parenting are two parents caring for their children in the same area but separately.

For parents to parallel parent, they must disengage. This means that there is no communication between the two parents unless there is major information that must be shared. For example, your son breaks his arm, and you are taking him to the hospital, yes you would pick up the phone and call the other parent. The flip side of that is your daughter repeats things to you that have been said in the other parent’s home, no matter how angry you are, you do not get to call the other parent up and voice your opinion. You do not and will not squabble over your concerns. You will give the other parent critical information about your child, remembering that you do not get to debate over each other’s parenting style. For parents who cannot co-parent, as many parents can’t, this is a excellent solution, and quite simple.

You cannot imagine the amount of relief I feel knowing there is a term for what we have been doing. As silly as it sounds, I needed a straightforward way to communicate to the other parents (when confronted with lack of co-parenting) that we did not have to co-parent we were parallel parenting. This is exactly what we have been doing, but now I have a name for it. Parallel parenting is so much easier to say than “you do your thing, we do ours, and we stay out of each others business.” Not to mention, it is a real parenting style, that other people do, as well. And it works.

Now, that I have found my solution, I would love to hear what other parenting issues you have had. Have you been at a loss for how to handle situations with your exes? Have you found other solutions that work? Tell me all about it and I will share more with you.

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65 Responses to “When Co-Parenting with the Psycho Ex Does Not Work”

  • Cindy:

    I am a single mom of 5 boys – 3 of which are special needs. My oldest son has bipolar, adhd, and odd. Because of his violent nature and behavior and after 3 psychiatric hospital stays and numerous visits to psychiatrist and counselors over the last 4 years not to mention other things tried including drugs, I sent him to live with his bipolar, abusive father who is not on medication for his bipolar condition as well as other mental illnesses. My son comes to visit me every 2-3 weeks for a weekend. He loves to “put” me down and tell me I’m a bad parent when all I’ve ever done is love him and try to get him help. He has been violent towards his younger siblings and that is what prompted me to send him for their safety. The younger ones are doing better since he is not around as much. My ex won’t take this son to the doctor, psychiatrist or give him medications at all. My ex will not communicate with me. Instead I get complaining emails from the school where my son attends. I have primary custody but am getting that changed so my ex will be held accountable for his “lack of care” for my son. I just document everything. Any suggestions? I get so tired of my bipolar son “woodpecker” being verbally abusive to me and teaching his brothers to do the same.

  • Kerrybuffington:

    I’m new to this split parenting life. Reading these articles do help me knowing I’m not alone. I’d love to parallel parent.
    I can tune out only so much. My ex has still not discovered the laws that govern us all. He simply is above the law and practices it whilst in the car with our 8 yr old daughter. He’s above even the standard morals, he lets our little girl cosleep in the same room with his girlfriends boys ages 10-13. I don’t know if I can mentally disengage as it appears harmful and the risks are high. If dreams come true, just putting her mental physical and emotional well being first would be my dream. Would even be nice if and when she did let these things come to my attention that I could ignore but I do know she’s telling innocent truths as the reason for divorce was him running from me when I’d say I’m sorry but we can not hit and run cars we can not ride on the shoulder when we’re in a hurry, we can’t throw fireworks at the kids in the house, on and on… Is this failed coparenting or am I losing it!!! It’s been unstable for years he ran faster when I said its counseling time, we need help.
    As soon as therapist started suggesting to us and him ways of parenting, he quit going and got divorced. Our daughter has a counselor but he doesn’t like it, well of course not she may tell on dad!
    He can’t stop. He won’t. I’m not sure if I’m being nit picky or what.
    Coparenting- parallel parenting- bipolar parenting? That said with a straight face, his father is in an institution diagnosed bipolar schizophrenic. Thanks for comments

  • Meredith:

    Thank you, Carrie! I appreciate your bravery. I just discovered parallel parenting 2 days ago, and now your blog!

  • Meredith:

    Thank you, Carrie, for your brave blog! I discovered the term parallel parenting in a post-divorce book at the library yesterday. Now, your blog. I have a child with a mentally-ill and verbally-abusive man who, thankfully, lives 3,000 miles away. I have residential custody, we share legal (California law leans toward shared everything). Because of the verbal abuse (towards me, not our son) I will only communicate with him via text and email. Phone calls and skype are only for our child. Parallel parenting is our solution! I love the way you handled the self-righteous commentators. Thank you!

  • so sick of the lying:

    i think parallel parenting naturally occurs when the parents can’t get along anyway. once you realize that by trying to co-parent with a person who trips over their lies and is not trying to co-parent but merely demanding things and expecting you to capitulate at every “joint-decision”. i have found that there are very few exes that get along enough to do co-parenting well. it’s impossible to shield your kids from the disagreements when they get older. better to parallel parent than to allow yourself to be in the same abusive cycle you were in when you were married.

  • Erin:

    I am the mother of a 4 year old girl. I have been divorced for 2 and a half years. He father has been in and out of her life, seen her 25 times in that time span. He is currently behind in child support to the amount of $6k and refuses to keep a job. He recently came back to town after 3 months with no communication/ no address/ no phone and is telling me that I need to prepare to have her come to Tennessee with him during the summers. I have kept her seeing his family on a regular basis to promote those relationships. But now, after all of the abuse, abandonment, etc., his mother is now taking his side after she has done all of the things that he should have been doing. Currently, where he lives is a one room pole barn and is living with a husband and wife. The husband was charged but never convicted of child abuse and I also recently found out that my ex husband was questioned but not charged with having sex with a teenager. I have found out that this actually happened but due to time constraints he can’t be charged with this now.
    In his short visit, he told my child that I was the reason he has been in jail and that my boyfriend was the reason that we aren’t married, needless to say the ex knocked up a 20 year old and that is one of the reasons I filled and my boyfriend and I didn’t even go on our first date until weeks after I filed for divorce, but I had known him for years.I need to protect my child, but don’t want her to lose the relationship she has with his family. I have sent a letter to the judge in our jurisdiction for a case manager to supervise any further visits,not like there have been that many. What is your opinion on this situation and how do you feel I can best protect my child but give her the opportunity to know him. I am scared that if he can run the way he did on his own, he could also run with my daughter.

    • Carrie:

      Oh Erin I’m so sorry to hear about your situation. I’m not a lawyer and I don’t know what state you reside in our the way they handle custody issues. However I will say this, if it were me and living in the state I do (knowing that parents are treated equal no matter what, unless they have been convicted of harmful behaviors multiple times) I would still fight to keep my children safe. Do you already legally have full custody? If so that will help your situation as from my experience I have found that if something is working and there are issues with the change, a judge is more likely to keep things as they are. Now that being said he/she may (the likelyhood depends on again the state you live in) award more visitation time than you want but they may also consider all of your concerns.

      I hope the helps and I wish you the best.


      • Erin:

        Thank you, Carrie, for responding. I understand that we all have different situations. I am lucky to have a great support system and even luckier that our judge is always thinking of the child’s best interest. We have a statement in our divorce decree that he has to have supervised visitations at his mothers since he has no bedding or clothing for his children. This means he will have to take me back to court and prove he can handle “the responsibility”. I had had a co-parenting relationship with his mother since he runs without telling anyone where he is or how to contact him. This isn’t good for his case, but now his mother is supporting him. This breaks my heart because I took care of her for 4 years while she had cancer but he took her for 6k in the last two years but can’t pay his child support. I will fight for my daughter and I want you to know how much I appreciate your blog.

        ps- Received a letter in the mail today from the judge that looks positive for having a case manager involved. This blog and that letter made my day!

        • Carrie:


          Thank you for your kind words, I always appreciate the support and thank you for the update. It is great to hear that you received such positive feedback from judge today. Just reading the fact that your daughters father is legally restricted was like music to my ears. Whether he likes it or not, for now you maintain the control and he can’t be with your girl without his mother present. I am sure that your comfort level has dropped with his mother due to her willingness to support him however I highly doubt she would support him harming your girl or taking her away. I may be mistaken but it sounds like she is dreaming that her son were better and she is hoping that by giving him stronger ties to your daughter that he will have a reason to not run off anymore. As a mother we all hate to think the worst of our children even when we are faced with the truth. It’s not easy to trust someone in these circumstances but I believe that as bad as this situation is you will get through it and everything will end up just fine.

          Again good luck.


  • Lorri:

    This was a very interesting read. I am wondering how well you expect the concept of Parallel Parenting to work once your children are teenagers? As most of us with teens can testify they will often use any vacuum in communication between parents – even when said parents are still together – and use it to full, and not always noble advantage. I’m interested in how this parenting model stands up to another unreasonable, sometimes manipulative personality thrown in to the whole dynamic. Lets face it. thats what teens can be at times. Bless their hearts they can be creatures of opportunity, and leaving each parent to there own house rules with little communication seems to provide a fair amount of opportunity.


    • Carrie:


      Although my children are not technically teenagers they (like all children) already try the manipulating and attempting to play one parent against the other. And if their other parents parented in a way we saw fit we would work with them more (co-parent) but since their parenting values are so completely opposite of ours this becomes impossible as has been evident in the few times we have tried to deal with major kid problems. I am sure that as the children grow older we will have new things to figure out buti have no doubt that we will continue to do this on our own, in our own home, the way we see fit (parallel parenting).


      • Lorri:

        Thanks for the reply Carrie. I wish the absolute best of luck with those tricky teen years.
        My experience with separated parenting of teens has been a mixed bag. My eldest daughter (now 18) at around 16- 17 was very difficult and used the different parenting rules and lack of communication to get up to some seriously icky behavior (the usual teenage chestnuts – sex and alcohol) The consequences of which were not able to be isolated to each parents individual home.

        Her father was aware of some of her poor decision making, and for the myriad reasons that lead us to be parallel parenting at that point, he decided not to inform me of what was going on. He, at the time, had a “peace at any price” attitude towards most of the relationships in his life, including the relationship with our daughter, and that is how he dealt with her for the period of time she was in his care. I had an incomplete picture of what was happening and this impeded my ability to make some fundamental parenting decisions. By the time I had the whole story she had managed, amongst other awful things, to contract a (thankfully treatable) STD.

        Things have, as they generally do with teens, settled down a lot. Both my ex and I have since agreed, that parallel parenting, in that situation, did not work. And may not work in general with teens. We were still bogged down in a lot of emotional conflict and while it was the easier option on US to have limited communication it ultimately created another set of problems that in themselves caused more conflict. We now, not always with perfect results, try to put our personal feelings aside and parent more cooperatively. There are still some element of parallel parenting we adopt, but we dont make it our practice, or our goal, to be genuinely disengaged. It is definitely not easy and there are still times were I think both of us could happily never speak to the other again, but we both love our children – all 5 of them, and still have many teen years to get through. The experience of dishonorable, i mean darling daughter number one has left us both a bit wiser about just how rotten teens can be and how important it is to keep communicating. The pursuit of personal peace, for us anyway, can not supersede the well being of our kids. Obtaining one may not always mean you get the other…not all the time anyway. I wonder if that boat sails the moment you have kids anway? ;)

        I wish everyone out there raising teens all the best. Co, parallel, sole or married – its a wile ride for all of us!


  • Cinderin:

    So happy to have found your Blog. I have tried to co-parent with my ex and his new wife. We cannot find common ground. In their eyes everything my husband and I say or do at our house is the wrong thing to say or do. Our oldest son has Asperger’s Syndrome and now all of a sudden the new wife is an expert on Asperger’s. Ex is Bi-Polar, and a Narcissist, and I have no idea about the new wife, other than she would love to have me out of her picture all together. I am sure it would be easier for our current spouses if the Ex’s weren’t in the picture. Pretend that we never existed at all. The kids are the ones suffering. At our house we feel that the less contact we have with them is the best way to handle things. We use the Our Family Wizard web site for communications as the court ordered, but that has not prevented written attacks on my own parenting skills, marital skills, shopping skills, etc. I have been told not to schedule Doctor appointments or Therapist or Dental appointments on my Ex’s parenting time, by his new wife, of course. I have been told that I am mentally ill, a terrible and absent parent who cannot take care of her children. I do not need to have contact with people that constantly be-little me to my son’s, and to anyone else who will give them an ear. I do not discuss my Ex with our children, and want them to continue to have a relationship with thier father, even though I can’t have one with him. I now only notify him of serious illnesses, functions at school, or medication changes for the children. The boys are learning that there is “dad’s house” and “mom’s house”, and that you follow the rules at the house you are in. It was difficult for them at first. We have bed times, homework times, dinner times, bath times, etc. At Dad’s house things are less organized, and a little more chaotic than our house, but the boys adapt. Does it really matter what time they eat or bathe while at dad’s house? Do we really need to have constant contact about things as petty as what time dinner time should be? Does it matter as long as they get dinner? Co-Parenting just doesn’t work for everyone. I believe that it works for very few actually. Co-Parenting with the mentally ill is next to impossible. The courts don’t want to be bogged down with petty disputes. We have found that Parallel Parenting is the best. Keeps the peace, reduces stress (not that we still don’t have some), lets the kids stop being messengers and enjoy their time with their dad. Keeps my husband from arguing with my Ex, and keeps the Ex’s new wife from arguing with me. None of that was good for the boys, and believe me, it had an effect on them no matter how hard we tried to keep it away from them. You cannot bend someone to adopt your same parenting style…but you can learn to accept theirs, and move on and give your kids the best life you can, and the one that they deserve without feeling like pawns in the game of divorce.

    • Thank you for sharing. I believe it always helps others to know they are not alone and that there are options for those of us who just can’t co-parent.


  • Willa:

    I have an issue. I feel as if co-parenting has never worked effectively when one parent wants total control over every decision or action with the child. There is very little room for compromise and when there is compromise, be ready for retaliation for the need to compromise. My ex-husband claims to be forgetful over my wishes for our son, and although he works ungodly hours at two jobs that are high capacity and management incorporated, he still feels he has a higher say than I do. He lives vicariously through his son, helping him as long as it’s what “daddy” wants for him. This is manipulative parenting and extremely selfish of him. I had to leave the state my child lives in for work and a better cost of living going on two years ago. I made the sacrifice to keep my youngest son in the same school and stay with his father who now has residential custody, although we have joint custody. I made that sacrifice because I knew it would traumatize him to get up and move about knowing I wasn’t stable just yet. I was thinking about him and his well-being. But every time I try to get to communicate with them and try to stay involved, it’s at a very minor and limited involvement, that my ex-husband plans or says things opposite of what I’m trying to communicate with him about, and it turns into a vicious argument. Such as the selection of his high school. I let him graduate with his classmates for middle-school, and I had no say as to which schools he should attend, and now they’ve chosen private schools that cost thousands of dollars withour a scholarship, and he is trying to live up to the idea of having been accepted and going to a school 40 minutes away from home in another state. They live in NY, the school is in the middle of northern New Jersey. If he gets the scholarship, he gets a free ride, but commuting will drain. It won’t be conventional, and doing any kind of afterschool activities may be limited. My ex-husband is not being realistic, they do not live in that state, and it will continue to be a crutch for us when I try to reason with him, and he doesn’t care about my opinions towards our son’s future and well-being. He claims it’s his decision to go to the school. The school is the best in the country for baseball playing, and wants to attend, because my ex-husband was almost a minor league baseball player. Plus it is high on academics. Supposedly he will study to be a heart surgeon. But careers, such as those mentioned are great, and very limited. You will have to the best in academics and skill, which my son is higher than average, but unfortunately not that talented. I fear for disappointment and unnecesary emotional scarring and stress because of what his father wants. I want what makes my son happy and is reasonable. His father wants him to shoot for the farthest star and get there on a school bus rigged to fly in outer space. I am in between a rock and a hard place. I really am not sure what to do. I don’t want a court case, but speaking reasonably is not my ex’s strong suit. Please someone give me some advice…something that I can grab hold of and say ok, I made the right choice, and hope I can reason with my son, in helping him make right choices as well. REason why I left NY, was that I was getting paid as a temp for a studio that closed down, and I was also receiving child support for two children. The oldest was graduating to college and I could not live with only a smaller percentage of child support and unemployment insurance. That only covered the rent, which was already at $1442 a month. I left to live in NC where there were plenty of jobs, and less rent to pay. I feel I made a great choice to live down here…and I did ask my children countless times to come with me. I now have a 2 bedroom apt, my own car, and two jobs, one for a financial auditing firm and another working as a Yoga instructor. I am studying for a Psych Tech certification so I can proceed in getting my Pshology degree to open a well-ness practice. This would not have happened to me had i stayed in NYC. I am doing this for my children and there future…not to move ahead without them. Please help.

    • Willa,

      Let me first say, I have no doubt that when you made the decision to move you absolutely had the well the being of your children involved. And, I in no way can relate to the stress that is has caused you nor can I relate to the out of control feeling it has presented.

      With that being said I will attempt to try and answer your question and possibly give you a different perspective or maybe direction.

      First is your son the one that is opposed to going to the new school or are you the one opposed and he is just going along with the choices made for him? If your son is not wanting to go then I would suggest rather than trying to get into a fight or argument via the phone or in person (however you handle these situations now with your ex) that you email him a well thought out email that expresses these concerns that you are hearing from your son and asking your ex to consider your sons feelings when making the decision to change schools. But as the mom and a mom who does not live in your sons current school district you need to come to terms with the fact that yes you have the right to express your concerns but your ex ultimately has control over the schooling situation. He is the one responsible for getting him to and from school and also dealing with the day to day schooling issues. I know that must be extremely frustrating for you but think of it in the reverse. If you were the one with residential custody and you made a decision to transfer your son to a school you thought would be better for him and your ex disagreed, would you really want or care about his opinion? Maybe you would take it into more consideration than he seems to be but in the end if you still thought it was best you would expect him to accept the change and move on.

      What I am saying is express the concerns, calmly in an email (especially if it is your son not wanting the change) and then if the school transfer happens, try to accept it. Your anger and frustration will only make the transition harder for your son.

      Then next, support your son. If he is moved to another school and unwillingly, be there for him to vent. But also be there to encourage him to accept it as well and make the best out of it.

      It is never fun to have partial control over situations with our children but it is something as divorced parents we have to accept.

      Good luck to you and I sincerely hope things work out for the best.


      • Willa:

        Hi Carrie,

        Thank you for the insight. I do appreciate what you have said to me, and will definitely take that into consideration. I didn’t see it this way, however, even if it is what my son and his father had both decided on, my son is very much encouraged to move forward with this decision. Only time will tell if this will work out for the best. At this point, he hasn’t started school yet, so if situations alter his productivity in the school, then I will intervene. But as the old saying goes, if it’s not broken don’t fix it.

  • Theresa:

    I just wanted to thank you for blogging regarding this topic. I am in the middle of a traumatic custody battle, and it is helpful to know that there are other parents out there dealing with the same highly stressful circumstances. I am having to represent myself in court, and I have been searching online for the most strict parenting plan language available to help prevent my x from continuing to be abusive. My abuse in the relationship was financial and verbal. We had to go through a family court evaluation, and the family court coordinator was thankfully familiar with the concept of parallel parenting, thankfully. The coordinators recommendation to the courts was parallel parenting. Now I am just trying to convince the courts to follow the recommendation. Wish me luck. If you know of any links to helpful websites, I am absolutely interested.
    Wishing you happiness and success in your parenting.

  • Chat:

    I have found it really frustrating to be unable to co-parent because I know my ex’s lawyer will jump down my pants in a nanosecond for “not consulting the father” and the father will be writing down bad stuff about “evidence of independent behavior on the mother’s part, showing that she doesn’t respect the father’s role in the child’s life, yadda yadda”, but when I ask him to help me make a simple decision, such as a medical one (whether to get x shot, what to do about recommendations from dentist), I can’t get him to discuss it. (if it is something HE wants, it’s a different story, to get my consent to go off on a vacation with his girlfriend he was all over my inbox and calling on the phone! If it is something that I want, or something that will cost him money he doesn’t want to spend, or take time away from his fun, he acts like it isn’t worth addressing). If I go ahead and get treatment, I will get in trouble for acting independently. I have already gotten dinged for “marginalizing the father”, but this was a very unfair assessment on the court’s part. At the time I moved a couple towns over, the father was a substance abuser acting psychotically. He subsequently cleaned up his act, but he is still incredibly self-centered. If the father refuses to step up to the plate and give me written agreement, or share costs, etc., or compromise me with decisions on our son, how can I “include” him? I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t.

  • Ann:

    I came across this article after googling “how to co-parent with my ex when we disagree”. I have an 11 year old daughter and her father and I have been apart since she was a year old. We both love her dearly, we have had our “ups and downs” when it comes to topics relating to her. Obviously, we disagree on many things … hence why we are no longer a couple. The other day, we had another blowout “disagreement” about our daughter’s diet. He feels she needs to stop eating dairy since he feels this is what is causing her stomach pains and cramps. FYI … we’ve been through this before. We tried it previously and it did not work. I think her stomach cramps and pains are more emotionally charged than anything else. With that being said, he is her father and I can respect his wishes. I agreed … no dairy. We are on her first day with no dairy and so I threw out her dinner leftovers he brought her home with the other night since it contained cheese. Apparently, this was a bad thing to do because now, according to him, I am acting callously. I am also now listening to him dictate to me that she needs to go back to the Dr. for this (another $15 co-pay that I can’t afford). In a round-about way I feel I am being told I am a bad parent. We tend to always have fights over our daughter’s health … I lean more towards natural healing and remedies while he is a firm believer in science and medicine. Am I the one preventing positive co-parenting? Are we doing more harm to our daughter by trying to effectively co-parent vs. parallel parenting? Are the disagreements between her father and I what is ultimately causing her stomach pains? This is my fear. We do not argue in front of her or share details of arguments with her but it is naive to think she doesn’t feel the tension. She knows us as well as we know her. How do I fix this? How do I make this easier for her? Is there a right answer?

    • Ann,

      Let me first say I am not an expert I can only speak for the experiences I have had as both a child of divorced parents and a parent deal with children in divorced families.

      That being said I have a few things to say; First as you stated yourself, you “disagree” with your ex, always have and always will–so when it comes to issues like these, you are probably going to disagree. In general I tend to try to make an effort with our children’s other parents when it comes to health issues. However because we know that we not always agree with this we have a clause in our divorce which states that the parent wanting to seek medical treatment (outside of an emergency) must 1-get approval from the other parent to do so and 2-Must also seek approval for the cost. The point of this for us was that no I most likely won’t stop you from taking them to see a doctor on your concern but when I don’t share the same concern, I am not going to pay for it. When you have different opinions on medical care there has to be a middle ground that allows for this. I myself prefer a more holistic health approach instead of medicines and putting things in mine and my children’s bodies that may not be natural. So are you required to pay half medical even when it is optional and not what you want? If not then tell him he can seek counsel from a doctor if he likes but you are not going to pay for it.

      Second, if you have tried the “milk” free diet and it did not work, have you told your ex that? If so then you may have to say, we have tried that and I don’t feel like it is the issue so I am sorry but I am going in a different direction. I would tell him once, that you think it is stress and leave it at that. He will probably disagree. Just as you disagree with him I am sure he disagrees with you.

      As far as which is better co-parenting or parallel parenting, it is all a matter of what works for you. I know for me as a child I had huge stomach issues until my parents stopped having contact but that was because all of their contact was negative and caused me stress. I can not say that is the issue with your child but it can definitely be a problem. I am sure whether you have disagreements in front of her or not, she feels it. Children are very in tune with these things.

      I am not sure if any this helps, but you know your daughter. You can’t control what your ex does in his home and he can’t control what you do–so do the best you can for your daughter and make decisions that you are happy with and can live with.


  • Matt:

    I feel for all parents who have difficulty in co-parenting or any other term you want to use. I am a divorced father with 2 kids. I admit before and during divorce I was nothing short of being an asshole and a prick and a not so good father. After divorce and dealing with depression I got my life together. I excercised, lost weight, took my meds, met my therapist religiously. Out of divorce I was able to have 50-50 custody, week on and week off. I will come back to this part later. While I was out in the dating world I finally found someone who gave me the tingles. She too was a divorced mother with 3 kids. We had a long distance relationship until I proposed and she moved 6 hours to me away from her roots. While my courtship was going on, I realized the impact and the hurt I did while being an asshole, prick and so on. I apologized to my ex-wife for being that way and I wished for her to have happiness and love, which she did find. Now going back to what I was and I found someone, she had a ex from hell and well still does. He is worthless. He pays nothing but $240 a month for 3 kids. The arrangement for visitation handcuffs my finacee from full time employment. Who ends up paying for wverything? I do. He pays nothing. All the while he works for cash and tip toes around the rules set forth by the judge and court, which by the way is big fucking JOKE in Wisconsin. That state is horrible for women and great for former abusive ex-husbands and fathers. We can’t co-parent or parellel parent or do anything with any cohesion with him. He in simple terms is POP, President of Pricks. He bad mouths the mother all the time and offers false rewards and when he doesn’t deliver, he blames their mom and or me. The courts need to wake up. Some kids would be better off not knowing their father. Big picture in life is love, happiness and being a good and productive person. Being tugged and used as a pawn does no good. We do not have $1000′s of dollars laying around to fight in court. Because I am too busy supporting and paying for all that the kids can take in as activities go. I love doing it as well. But, it’s BS that the system is a failure for the kids and for society as these kids become hopeful productive people.

  • George:

    I would have to agree with a few of the other people who have posted here, along with pretty much any reputable psychologist on the planet, that co-parenting is preferable over parallel parenting and that when co-parenting is an option, parallel parenting is the selfish, lazy, irresponsible way out.

    That being said, sometimes co-parenting, in the strictest terms, is something that some parents seem incapable of. In such cases, having parts of the parenting be coordinated and parts parallel may be the best option. But communication is key to raising children. We have responsibilities that must not be overlooked. To “give up” should never be considered. We must always think of our children and what effect our parenting may have on them. To say “my ex- is a drug-addict who leaves the house for days at a time and comes back to abuse the kids but I can’t do anything about so chose to turn a blind eye” is completely unacceptable. Of course we are not talking about that extreme a situation here. But the point is that if something is known to be bad at your ex’s, conversations should take place to rectify it. Having different rules at different houses may not be ideal but should be completely acceptable, as long as the kids are healthy, happy, well educated, etc. We must keep our priorities. And our priorities for raising our kids should be the kids; not making things easy for us.

    Co-parenting should be considered the ideal. But reality must dictate our adherence to this ideal. We should, first and foremost, do the best parenting we can. Secondarily, we should try to coordinate & communicate with our ex’s.

    • George,

      My point of writing this post was to give those who are unable to co-parent with their ex another option. Co-parenting may be ideal but it is definitely not always doable and in those cases parallel parenting is an option. In my opinion it is only selfish to Parallel parent if co-parenting works, but when it does not work, there is nothing selfish about it.

      I appreciate your comment “We should, first and foremost, do the best parenting we can. Secondarily, we should try to coordinate & communicate with our ex’s.” For my husband and myself, that is exactly what we do and sometimes you could say we co-parent and other times we parallel parent, but at all times we are the best parents we can be to all four of the children.

      Thanks for the visit and the comment.


  • Shelly:


    Thanks for posting this blog. I stumbled across it when I was searching ‘parellel parenting’. I too had just heard the term after trying to find research on ways to co-parent with a controlling ex-wife. I’m a stepmother of two wonderful children. At times I feel that my husband and I go above and beyond what typical ‘co-parenting’ is and in the end it gets twisted and abused by his ex-wife. She is a her way or the highway type of women and co-parenting is truly impossilbe.

    We have had some very candid conversations lately about his concept of parellel parenting and thinking about moving away from *trying* to co-parent. Thanks for your take on it!

    • Donna:

      OMG, I am so glad I found this site. My husband has been trying to co parent with the most impossible woman ever! I am a step mom and a mom and have never ever considered doing the things she’s done even at my most evil and spiteful moments… It is so hard to see what’s being done to a 9 year old girl in the name of “winning”! Who’s winning I wonder. Somehow it is helpful to know that others are having the same experiences! I am not crazy!. thanks so much, D

      • Carrie:


        I am so happy you found my site too. Reading about other peoples experiences does not make your issues with the impossible ex go away but it does make you feel a little more normal.

        Thanks for your support.


  • Sasha:

    I just shared your blog post on facebook. I have just realised I am parallel parenting with my ex. He and I disagree on many aspects of parenting so at his house, he does his thing, and at my house, I do mine. We only need to come to agreement on the big stuff: schooling, health, activities (and even this is difficult). He still tries to control me even though he apparently doesn’t realise it. I just do my own thing, parent my own way and allow him to parent the way he needs to. I have repartnered with someone whose ex thinks every miniscule aspect of their childrens’ lives is up for discussion and that her way is the right way. She also believes that she has a right to dictate how he conducts his relationship with me. I think for now, parallel parenting is their only option. Great post. Thanks very much for a timely read.


    • Sasha,

      Thank you for both taking the time to read Day to Day Woman and for sharing it with others.

      I completely relate to your situation and from my experience I have found that parallel parenting is the only way.


  • Lilli:

    I agree with other commenters that parallel parenting is nothing I would wish on any child. If I were the one that caused the end of my marriage (god forbid) out of respect for the father of my children and out of love for my children I would understand their father’s pain and not for a moment think that my children’s mother would want anything to do with my new husband. If my ex chose not to speak with me because of the pain I caused by ending the relationship I would try very hard to allow him to be the main decision maker in every day life things that in the end mean nothing. Otherwise I think it is my children that would suffer.

    • Lilli,

      I don’t think you can say what you would do until you are actually immersed in the situation. The picture I had in my head was much different than the reality of the situation. While co-parenting is preferable, it is not always an option–thus parallel parenting comes into play. I also strongly disagree with your statement that you would allow “him to be the main decision maker in every day life things” if you had caused the break up. While everyone is different there are usually lots of issues between divorced couples–you are more than likely not going to agree with much. So again it is hard for you to speak into a situation that you have yet to experience. Parallel parenting is an option for those of us that have not been able to realistically co-parent and those attempts are harming the children more than then are helping.

      I hope you never have to find out how hard it is.


  • Kris:

    Thanks, guys. I have tried getting a PPO, but the police say you need recent assaults. Also, I know that once I got it, he would really flip and lower the child support by claiming lower profits because he would engage his lawyer to fight it. He already did that once when my daughter got a caution against him. The reason why he would fight it is because he is already on a good behavior bond for an assault on our older child (who doesn’t see him). Any other offence, and he is up for a huge fine, and be back in court. That would definitely lower my child support (which he already lowered) and I’m about at my limit of how much extra independent work I can do, since I still have young children in my care.

    I know court is the only way to go, since mediation has been ruled out by three different centres. But I conceded all my savings to him to settle assets. So I have nothing, and trying to save to repair the house to move because he moved in next door. The kids are told they can go there anytime.

    I’m also scared the court may not see it, since friends don’t seem to see it, unless they are domestic violence experts. They think he may be imperfect, but I shouldn’t hamper the visitation. I’m not, but he is claiming I am, because I’m not willing to give him more time when he will not agree to abide by simple rules, to give me notice when he changes things or ask me first.

  • Kris:

    I agree with you that for most of my divorced friends, only parallel parenting works. Why? Because it doesn’t take two to tango. It takes one to be destructive. And unless the other detaches, he or she gets poisoned as well.

    My ex is always trying to use the right words, talking about co-parenting for the sake of the kids, that they need to see us communicating with love and respect, etc. I think he got these words from his counselors, who have no idea that he is an abusive dangerous man. He is still abusive to the kids, but short of running away and hiding, there is not much I can do but allow him some time for the kids. It is still not good enough for him because he refuses to play by the rules – he keeps changing things and if I ask him respectfully to be reasonable, he ignores it and complains that I am withholding the children from him, which is not good for them and that I am damaging them by being disrespectful to him.

    Meanwhile he keeps saying that he is respectful and loving to me, while ignoring everything I ask of him. He keeps giving me reasons why he does what he does, and they are normally things like, “out of love and not ill-will”, unlike what he says I do. I told him not to smear me to the kids, so he will say things like “You have a great mother” but at the same time undermine me by saying, “She is full of unforgiveness, and she should be doing this or that,..”

    The trouble is because he has the language of experts, friends agree with him and pressure me to co-parent instead of detach myself and just communicate the minimum by email. We have no court orders and he doesn’t want to go to court, but doesn’t want to be reasonable in negotiation either. He thinks I am unreasonable for not letting him have the kids anytime, and so now he says he will just come and get them since I won’t let them go.

    What do I do when he shows up? I don’t want my kids to be torn in the middle. I can’t afford an attorney as he took all my money in the division.

    • Kris,

      It is so hard. I am so sorry you are dealing with this. I don’t know what to say to encourage you. I think no matter how bad it is with your ex you have to remember to try to set your feelings aside and allow him to be your children’s father–even when you feel he is not a good one. As long as he is not physically abusing them or truly harming them, you have to ignore his words and control what you can control. I think the more you fight him the more he will cause you grief.

      Continue to be a good mom. Don’t talk bad about your ex to the kids. When he comes up in conversation just say “that is your dad” or change the subject and redirect the conversation. In the long run your children will grow up and they will be able to see things with their own eyes. You don’t need to defend yourself to the children, they will figure it out on their own.

      Good luck to you.


    • lucy:

      This reminds me of my ex. Claimed he didnt want to go to friend of the court, wanted to work outside the court, and yet wanted to be a jerk who critizized everything, constantly demanded more time, threatened, complained. He told me that on april 19 he would file for custody. Its now june 28 and he hasnt. I filed a ppo. for harrassment and included the mean stuff he did during the preg, they granted it. I was so scared they wouldnt grant it i almost didnt get the ppo. He only got one visit during the first 6 weeks of the ppo. and he couldnt complain to me at all. i was sure he would file for custody and be so mad. guess what, he didnt. and now hes asking me to drop the ppo, in exchange we can have a court agreement about visitation that is enforceable and that is less then the joint custody 50% from birth he was always saying he was going to get if i didnt cooperate with his many demands. he even told me i couldnt breastfeed, and if i insisted i would have to pump a week worth at a time and send it with the baby. now we seem to be settling at 2.5 days a week for him when hes school age, and less before, working our way up. not ideal, but way better then living with his threats, intimidation, constant phone calls, emails, harrasments, ect.
      if i were you, and i had just cause, i would file a ppo. i would use whatever threats he has said against me, and if hes ever done anything physical to me, i would include that also. Then after the ppo is granted you can file a motion yourself in the court asking for full custody, and you dont have to be scared anymore, because the court deals with jerks like him all the time and they will recognize it. The judge in my case laughed at his emails and asked if he was for real. I was so scared the emails would somehow make me look bad, cause he had me so scared in general. he was blackmailing me, but that didnt work for him. he was recording all our conversations during the pregnancy secretly to use against me. he would scream at me while i was having panic attacks while pregnant, and tell my kids i was a whore.

      it can get better, and it will get better once something is in a court order i bet.

  • Dallas:

    Great blog! Great piece on Parallel Parenting! I notice a lot of comments to your story were about the impact the different rules and maybe even poor parenting skills were having on the kids. I have sort of an extreme version of this problem and thought maybe I might shed some light on what can be helpful to add to PP and under what circumstances the courts might deem it appropriate. My ex is a batter. He has psychological problems. There is no way this guy is getting a father of the year award. For us parallel parenting consists of me providing information about our child and him ignoring it and not communicating anything with the exception of the occasional snarky (unhelpful) letter. This is not appropriate because our child is non-verbal; so if the ex doesn’t tell me our child had medicine – I have no way of knowing. The second factor is that his parenting skills are VERY poor. It’s been my experience that the court will only address a parents skill level if it is shown to cause harm to the child. This means if the child is requiring medical care post ex’s parenting time (on several occasions) or the school expresses in writing a specific problem in writing that can clearly be traced back to your ex. (e.g. – * Every time Billy comes to school after his fathers parenting time he does not have his studies done and now he is flunking*) In my case, the ex’s parenting time so badly impacted my parenting time with the child, the courts finally elected to have a basic rider to or parenting agreement developed that set rules that had to be followed in both houses. In our rider it covers, bedtime (because it caused severe documented behavior problems), feeding (because it repeatedly required medical attention), discipline, homework, even hygiene (because it also caused problems requiring medical care). So I think the bench mark for getting to impose ones *rules* on the other household is = *Is there clear documentation from a professional that one parent’s actions / rules have a significantly detrimental effect on the child.* In our case, it was stupid things, but they caused a lot of problems. For instance, my ex fed our young child an entire melon right before the exchange. Our child spent the next 5 hours vomiting and miserable; and the family had to forgo attending a very special event. Now, that on it’s own was not the problem. It’s that I informed dad about what had happened and reminded him of our child’s sensitivity to such foods and dad instantly did it again (minutes before my parenting time). This time, the child became dehydrated and it required a day in the ER, medication, and follow up (all during my parenting time). I also had to miss 4 days of work, my other child’s school pageant, and pay over a thousand dollars in medical bills. Things of this nature happened several times a month. It was only when there was clear evidence that his choices caused harm, would the courts hear anything about the matter. So, if it’s not documented as *harmful* by a professional – just let it go. You aren’t going to be able to do anything about it. If you do have clear documentation from professionals, then a simple rider maybe helpful. (courts are not big on reducing parenting time for any reason). Also, I’d urge anyone looking to do a rider – keep it VERY simple. It’s easy to want to nit pick and impose all sorts of rules, but that isn’t helpful. No one likes to be bossed around. Don’t become the other parent! I’d suggest sticking to very specific to the obvious problems and let all of your *wants* go. I learned to think of it like *grandmas house*… I hate that my mom gives the children way to many *treats* and lets them jump on the beds, and stay up way too late, but they do adjust to coming back home to moms and living with my rules. Same with going to dads… unless it requires a meeting with the school, a call from a social worker, or a trip (or 10) to the ER… I have to let it go and hope at the very least they are having fun and creating some good memories.

  • pnb:

    I must say I have tried to co parent with my ex who refuses to respect how I have raised our children even while he was gone for ten years. Now we have a 14 year old running the show because we are told that it is not each others business how the other parents. When I am called a “stupid fucking bitch” by my daughter and hit he lets her have a party. when I take the cell phone away he gives her another instead of opting for a land line for safety. I worry about this parallel parenting concept as it is stated for one house will have rules and the other will be disney land and the child will often times when faced with an answer or consequence they do not like try to run to the other parent and then you end up in court looking like your overbearing when you are just defining the rules in your home that protect your child.

    I have no answer for he has his rules and i mine has created an abusive child toward me who now controls everything. I went from a husband being emotionally abusing and controlling to him doing it via the children. If I do not play by their rules then I can look forward to another custody battle.. 3 so far with two kids 8 years apart. The youngest begged to come home because I had rules and now a year later again sees the grass greener and plays me against him…and he has told her and I if she does not like my rules (he has none really) then he will take me back to court… oh the joys of Divorce sadly, the lackluster parents would do their children better if they fell of the planet and I am so tired of some people telling me to choose my battles so what if she is on the phone at 2 am so what if she dyes her hair blue so what if she talks to men on the internet all night….

    Courts need to remember what is behind these juvenile delinquents lack of parenting and need to limit time with Disney land parents to once a month.

    • I am so sorry that you have such a tough situation with your children and your ex. Co-parenting or Parallel Parenting is never easy–but sadly other than offering you words of sympathy and hope, I don’t think there is anything I can say that will make things any easier for you. All you can do is control the things that happen in your home and do the best you can. I wish you the best and hope things get better for you soon.

    • MommyBear:

      My children are MUCHyounger than yours though I feel like I could be writing the same post and fear I will be in 8 years. How is this kind of life “in the best interest of the children”?
      Why are the courts choosing to be blind, deaf and mute?

      • I do not think it is a matter of the courts not listening or paying attention. I think it is a matter of perspective. My issues are huge to me. Your issues are huge to you. In the courts eyes they see so many things that are so much worse, that my issues are minor in comparison.


  • Lauren:

    I came across your blog when I googled “my ex husband will not co-parent”. I appreciate what you are saying about parallel parenting because what we struggle to obtain post divorce with our exes is the ideal co parenting arrangement. My ex hates me. He blames me for his bankruptcy and for his current unfortunate financial situation working as a sales associate at a department store after having “successful” businesses for years. (Turns out he was maxing out his credit and ended up owing creditors $700,000.) He blames my divorcing him and all of the cost of litigation on me. I went from getting $5,450 per month in alimony and child support to getting $42 per week! We have 2 beautiful, smart, athletic, great kids together. My older son who is in 8th grade is beginning to have some issues in school despite having done well earlier in the school year. He is failing math and other classes and I want his father and would expect his father to want to determine how best to help our son. His father is high school educated and works in a department store. I am a Columbia educated social worker who like the psychologist above in your blog, is deeply concerned at the mixed messages the children get when the priorities/expectations/rules in the respective homes is so different. I took my son’s phone away, as well as the video games/laptop until we see some improvement in his school work. When my son went to his father’s, his father gave the phone back, thus undermining my attempt to teach my son that these things are privileges that are earned and he will have to work to earn them back. My ex berates me in front of the children and did so recently causing my nine year old to cry to me once he returned to my house. This past weekend, my younger son who was with his father, went to his baseball game without his belt and without his shirt tucked in. I gave the belt to his father and when I approached my ex and asked where the belt was, he said “get the fuck away from me you fuckin’ skank!” My ex needs help. This is not healthy for the children!!! He said that in front of his coach, as well as the entire team. When my younger son came in from playing first base, he heard it from that far away and said that he didn’t want to go home with his father. What should I do? Do I petition the court for more parenting time as it is clear that the boys are being so poorly influenced??? My ex works on the weekends and often leaves my older son who just turned 14 home by himself. I could go on and on and on. This can’t be ok?? I am curious to hear your thoughts!!!

    • Lauren,

      Wow, I am honored you would ask for my thoughts. My position with both my ex and my husband’s ex is quite different so I can tell you what I think as an outsider but I know that I am afraid it will come across less sympathetic than I really am. So please understand before I start, I am very sorry you have an ex like this to deal with. It is hard enough but a situation like this makes it worse.

      Let’s start with the blame—I have found that no matter what the reason is, there is always a huge amount of blame, rage, anger, bitterness towards the one who did the leaving from the one who is left. I know they are hurt but at times it can get out of control. Like in your situation the name calling. I would suggest you keep your distance. It is possible that time and space will help. Any contact you feel you need to have with your ex regarding the kids, do so through email. Be quick and just state the facts in your email and state just the facts, not your feelings. Anything that relates to how “you feel” will not be taken well.

      Next, you have to accept the fact that you cannot control the rules or the happenings in your ex’s home. I know that is extremely hard to deal with but the sooner you let go, the easier it is. If he is physically abusing them, that is something else and yes you can insert yourself to protect them. But if it is just a matter of you disagree with how he parents or he undermines you, well let it go. Set the rules in your home and stick to them. Even if their father allows them to act or do things you do not, tell them these are your rules and in your home they will not behave it said manner. Control what you can, let go of the rest.

      Sometimes that means you will have to over compensate to balance things out. For example, your ex may let them out of punishments so maybe when you might have bended in the past you have to stick to the punishment to make the point. Or you say your son can’t use his cell for two weeks and one of those weeks he is with his father, and the dad allows him. Well then the second week he is with you, he does not get it. Find ways to work within the things you can control.

      Hopefully if you keep your distance it will create a more stable (lack of name calling) situation for your kids. Parallel parenting does this…it allows you both to be parents while lessening the tension and thus making it better for your children.

      In regards to your question “Do I petition the court for more parenting time as it is clear that the boys are being so poorly influenced???” I don’t know. First it depends on where you live. In Nevada where our children are, they give equal amounts to both parents period. You have to be abusing physically, doing drugs and basically a criminal before they will take that away from you. And even then it is questionable. So no matter how bad of dad you or I may think your ex is, what will the court think?

      For me, with my ex, he did some things (which I will not mention here because this is public and it’s not right of me to share those details) that even the court determined to be not right and not good for the kids. But in the long run, he still ended up with them 50% of the time. I can say that while I do not trust that things could not go back to the way they were, for now because of the distance and time and his ability to eventually move on, things are better. I still keep my distance but he has gotten to a point where my children are not being hurt emotionally by his decisions any longer.

      Your 14 year old is being left alone….well it is hard for you, but think about what a court will think of it. Personally, if he is being left over night, I would be concerned. More because of the possible trouble he could get into. If it is during the day, as long as he has access to a phone, I would not worry as much. If he is getting into trouble or girls are an issue then maybe a quick email to your ex just asking if he is aware and asking that he consider other options to prevent the bad activity is in order. But again, remember, you can’t control what happens on his time. No matter how hard it is.

      I hope this helps or at least gives you some things to consider. Good luck to you.


  • Plmbr1:

    I gather from reading your blogs that there is “tension” between both sets of ex’s. You are ambiguous as to what these problems are so we have to read into what you say or don’t say.
    Your kids are yours and your ex’s and your husbands kids are his and his ex’s. Each ex has a claim. To say you or your husband would do nothing with the kids that the other would not approve of is commendable. I also think house rules can be different in each household. We are talking about three different households here.
    That being said decisions made in one house about and with the kids that affect the other house should be made together, not independently without the others knowledge. The biological parents should agree to this and the current spouse should accept their decisions and be supportive of getting agreements beneficial to all involved.
    Co- or parallel parenting, you are still parenting sets of kids and communication still needs to take place between households about items of importance.
    To get down to the basics some times a boulder has to be chipped away at and it takes time and effort from all parties concerned.

    • Thank you for taking the time to read and share your opinion. However I do not fully agree with you. First between me and my ex, there is no real tension at this time. We live our own lives, parent how we see fit in our own homes and consult each other only on the major issues in regards to the children. Basically your typical parallel parenting situation.

      In regards to my husband and his ex…well we are working on it. Only time will tell how this is going to play out.

      You said “decisions made in one house about and with the kids that affect the other house should be made together, not independently without the others knowledge”–you are right to a point. The problem with this line of thinking is that you are assuming that both parents can agree on whatever the issue is. That is not always going to happen and in many cases it doesn’t. So when those issues arise even if one parent disagrees the other parent has a right to do as they see fit.

      The whole point of this post was to explain that there are options to co-parenting. While co-parenting may be the goal, it sometimes takes a long time to get to that point and in other cases it may never be reached. So you have to have some way to deal with things.. thus parallel parenting comes into play.

  • ciara:

    ok i have a question. what do you do when you want to coparent but the other parent is barely in the picture and then when they do come around they have a lifestyle that is so contrary to how you raise your children? then on top of that one of the kids are not his biologically and has their biological father in the picture, but when the children go to my exes moms house he will randomly pop up and influence both of the kids in negative ways!! i am at my end with this and i really dont know what to do! please help!!

    • Ciara,

      First things first, if you are going to get anywhere you are going to have to learn you can’t control the situations when your children are with your ex. I know how incredibly hard that is. It took me a long time to let go and learn that unless there was an “abusive” situation, no matter how much I disagreed and did not like the things that were taking place, I could not change what the kids do at the other parent’s home. What you can do without ridiculing or putting the kids in the middle is correct the bad behavior. For example, your ex shows up and lets the kids stay up late, eat whatever they want, not mind, yell, scream, basically he lets them run the house and be out of control. Obviously this is not acceptable nor the way you would raise them, so when they come home to you, you remind them that in your home and in the world there are certain ways to behave and the way they are acting is unacceptable. If they argue and say well “dad” lets me, again just tell them it is not acceptable behavior and it is not allowed. It may take time and a little patience on your end but the consistency in your home (even if it is contrary to your ex) will pay off. The children will learn that when they are with you they must behave a certain way and hopefully they will learn that is how they are to behave no matter where they are.

      Set the rules in your home, set your boundaries, control only what you can control and follow through. I hope this helps.


  • Hannah:

    My parents divorced when I was very young, my father remarried and my parents very rarely speak, all communication goes through me – It’s a nightmare and in that situation children feel like they are being forced to choose, when there is such a rip between their two homes it is very difficult – In my opinion everything is a balance, you don’t have to have an extreme, if you have non confrontational conversations with your exes it will be much easier for your children.

    • Hannah,

      I am sorry that things have been rough for you and the way your parents dealt with their communication. You are right that there can be a balance. For us, with one ex we have found a pretty good balance but with the other it is just not workable. Parallel parenting is just an alternative to co-parenting when co-parenting does not work. With that we don’t expect the children to be the mouths of communication. We do email when neccessary. But really we have nothing to do with the other parent and we do our best to keep the children protected from the situation.

  • Elise:

    Carrie, I do not know you in person, but as a former social worker and current PhD student (I study children of divorced parents), I can’t refrain from trying offer some advise.
    Parallel parenting can cause much more harm than good, and many MANY psychologists would agree. It’s only good for the parents, who feel relieved for not having to negotiate anymore. I can understand how hard it is to negotiate discipline, moral education, daily routine, and many more “little things” that add up to a lot.
    But how do you expect young children to adapt to two different sets of rules? Sure, some children can learn quicky and ajust “just fine”. But can you understand that it creates a world where everyting is relative? Including the notion of respect? Including the most basic rules of daily life? When left on their own, children raised in this lazy and selfish way(I’m sorry, but Elizabeth is right) will likely became dependent, insecure and overall “needy” adults, and may have a higher chance of developping psychological disorders that give them a sense of “control”.
    Unless the exes are completely unreasonable, don’t do that to your kids, and for the love of God, stop believing in “revolutionary” educational methods, regardless of how much they suit you. Good old discipline, CONSISTENCY, fun, praise and the right amount of attention are all it takes for well-adjusted adults.
    You gave the perfect exemple of how distructive it can be for children to have to please two diffent sets of parents based on two different sets of rules. Can you think of one single reason why it would be okay for a child to complain about someone she cares for in order to please one of her parents? Its not. Not EVER.
    Parallel parenting is simply stating you don’t respect the other parent and it’s okay. Guess what? IT’S NOT!
    Don’t mess with your or anyone else’s kids self-esteem and their notion of respect. PLEASE!
    I understand the “apeal” of parallel parenting. It’s easy! Easy like a pyramid scheme. Its comfortable not to have to question anything about yourself. But even the poorest co-parenting style is better thant the childish aproach. At least the children will know you do your best to behave respectfully.
    I’m a proud european, but I’ve been in America long enough to be sure that not all americans choose the “easy way out”.

    • Hi Elise,
      Thank you for posting! As a current PhD student, what do you recommend to parents of blended families who are continually berated both publicly and privately by former spouses? Is it fair to ask those parents to try to “co-parent” and continue to be subjected to relentless vitriol and abuse? Or is the better option to limit contact in order to keep from escalating an already tense situation and subjecting the children to that environment. I agree and understand that parallel parenting could be construed as selfish if both parents are otherwise able to be civil with one another, but when one parent is consistently trying to cause problems and undermine the emotional stability of the children, I think you’d agree that creating the necessary separation and boundaries–while not ideal–is the more stable, mature and responsible approach for all involved. I’m curious to know your thoughts!

  • Mary DeWinkeleer:

    Hi Carrie,
    I am Roy’s (RADventures) wife, and he told me about your blog. I think what you are saying about parallel parenting makes perfect sense. If it was so easy to “co-parent” with the other person, I agree with you that you would probably still be together. But you are not because of whatever reason, so you have figured out what is best for you and your family.

    I disagree with “Elizabeth” that this is selfish—wouldn’t kids rather be with their parents separately in a healthy manner than in a “co-parenting” situation where the parents fight and back stab one another? That, to me, is much more damaging to the kids.

    Wonderfully written, and very interesting topics you have on this site. I’m a fan!


    • Thanks for checking me out Mary. I appreciate the feedback and support.

      Co-Parenting is great in concept and if it worked for everyone that would be great. But obviously it doesn’t, which is why I went searching for other options. For us Parallel parenting is the way it is and the way it will continue to be.

      I look forward to reading more on Roy’s blog–he definitely entertains me.


  • Sandy:

    I doubt that many divorced parents “co-parent”. The world is not full of Bruce and Demi’s that can do that. If the divorce is amicable and doesn’t leave someone that is butt-hurt, vindicive and hell bent on making the other pay for their pain I see how it could work. Honestly, dont most parents go their seperate ways and have as little to do with each other? I think Parallel is the norm, it now just has a name.

  • Hi Carrie,

    I felt this comment deserved a response:

    “Are there truly that many ex-spouses out there that get along so well that parenting together works? Out of all the divorced couples who I know that share children, there is only one I can think of where co-parenting actually works.”

    Co-parenting is how my ex-husband and I raise our almost 9-year-old daughter. :)

    In order for this style of parenting to work, the exes need to respect each other as parents. That’s it! The magic formula that makes it work. :)

    Granted, the events leading up to our divorce weren’t pretty, and we had a difficult time dealing with each other in the aftermath.
    But when the dust settled, one thing we agreed upon was how much we loved our daughter… and surprisingly we could acknowledge that we were both terrific parents towards her.

    He said to me, “You’re the best mom she could have.”
    And I told him that he was a wonderful, caring father.

    *cue the birds tweeting here*

    We both agree that my current husband, and his various girlfriends, will never replace the “mother” and “father” roles that belong solely to us. They are extended family, a bonus!

    He and I can still discuss our daughter’s needs, any behaviour issues, school work, and extra curricular activities… without breaking into accusations and personal attacks. Because I know he cares about her as much as I do.

    If we disagree on a disciplinary action, for example, we discuss our reasons and try to work something out. Sometimes it does boil down to “At my house, this is/isn’t acceptable …” and allow the other to make a similar decision.

    The “House Rules” are a bit different for our two households, but her overall health, safety, and success in school are agreed upon.

    “Overall health” meaning that he serves more pre-packaged TV dinners and sodas than I’d like… but if she eats home-cooked food at my house, and is deemed healthy by the doctors/dentists… I let it slide. LOL

    You can check back with us in 8 years, and see whether co-parenting a teenage girl tests our patience. ;)

    • Tara,

      Thank you for your comment regarding “co-parenting.” I think it is fabulous that you and your ex are able to co-parent. I want to say that I think the key to your working relationship is indeed the mutual respect. In our situation we tried very hard in the beginning but the ex was not as cooperative. It works for her when we agree with her but if we disagree we are horrible, evil people. It is just impossible to co-parent in our situation.

      Good luck to you and your teenage years. :)

  • Elizabeth:

    Parallel Parenting sounds selfish to me. It sounds like a term people use to justify their inability to be grown-ups and work together. I certainly understand that with divorce comes issues with the exes. Those issues may be difficult to deal with and may take time to overcome. In reality, those issues may never go away; however, even though your marriage is over, your responsibilty to your children is NOT! Saying you never want to speak to the exes again certainly shows the immaturity and selfish nature of this “parallel parenting” idea. What’s getting lost here is the fact that shouldn’t the kids come first??? Isn’t that what it’s all about? This parallel parenting would bring about confusion, inconsistency, insecurity….all things kids don’t need in their lives. Consistency in a child’s life is so crucial. If we can’t be adults and realize that we may have divorced our spouse but that spouse is still the mother/father of our children, it will be the children that suffer. You can call it whatever you like but how about growing up and deal with the issues with you exes so your children don’t feel isolated because there is a wall between their two “loving” homes? The children shouldn’t be forced to try to figure out how to act, what to expect and not know from week to week what side of the “parallel parenting” they are on. Does this really benefit our kids or is it all about making life easier for the parent? Just my opinion…

    • I can certainly see how on the surface that it may appear selfish, but on the other hand, I think it’s even more selfish to subject the children to more fighting, disagreements and anger between their parents. “Parallel parenting” is just a trendy way to say that the parents simply agree to disagree and move on from there. The mere fact that the parents are divorced in the first place indicates that they couldn’t agree on fundamental issues, so what makes us think that it would work now? Suddenly we must think about the children after the divorce? I’m sorry but that just doesn’t make sense. If it didn’t work before, it’s not going to work now and it has been my experience that forcing the issue will just lead to more tension. Divorced or not, virtually every parent I know put their children first before, during and after a divorce. Of course a divorce is not the most ideal experience for a child, but life happens and individuals regardless of age need to learn to adapt and move forward. That may sound a bit harsh when referring to children, but I firmly believe that as a parent I’m doing them an even greater disservice by wrapping them in bubble-wrap and sheltering them from every potential source of pain. How do they learn and prepare for life without a reasonable balance of ups and downs with help and support from their parents?
      In my case in particular, the ex-spouse in question continues to push for co-parenting because, according to them, “it’s in the best interest of the children.” However, what it feels like to me is that they use it as justification to continue to exert control over my parental judgment and decision-making. Case in point: The ex-spouse disagrees with (insert decision here) and sends me an email saying we need to talk about this. Even though I have no obligation to respond, I reply anyhow and briefly explain my actions and decisions. They reply to that by stating that they still disagree with my judgment. I end the the discussion by stating that while I understand their concern, I am going to parent in my household in the manner that I see fit and in the best interest of their safety and well-being. Then I’m told by the ex that I’m being “summarily dismissed.” Ok, so let me see if I get this straight: if I don’t make the decisions in my house that you want me to make, then I am not acting in the best interest of the kids and refusing to co-parent?
      In short, co-parenting when done correctly and with known and mutually-respected boundaries, can be a healthy method to continue to raise children after a divorce. The problem is when one spouse interprets co-parenting to mean that they think they still have a constant say and material influence in the during the other parent’s time. Choosing not to “co-parent” in these cases is NOT selfish–the selfishness is on the part of the parent who refuses to respect boundaries after a divorce, hence the need to “parallel parent.”

      • Brittany:

        After stumbling upon and then perusing your site I have a valid observation you might want to consider. Carrie, it seems like you tend to forget that you are parenting someone else’s children. I’ve read you have children of you own — you are absolutely entitled to parent them how you deem fit. However, the children of your spouse and his ex-wife are not your children to parent, especially when the mother of the children is attempting to create a dialogue about how she wants HER children to be raised. It sounds like you are the one who is lacking of respect.

        • Brittany,

          First, you did not just stumble upon my site, you came looking, which is fine–I appreciate you taking the time to check out my site. But since we are being honest we should be completely honest. Second I am well aware of our situation with our children, I know who I am the mother to and who I am the stepmom to. That being said, you are forgetting my husband. You mention my stepchildren’s mother but not their father. He has every right to parent the way he feels as well. He and I are unified in our parenting and I would never do something he did not approve of with any of our children. Also if you are really commenting on this post then you should know this post is written because he and his ex cannot co-parent together and that is why we have embraced parallel parenting. He wants nothing to do with his ex–and rightfully so after the way that she treats him–and she has no right to say his ways of parenting are wrong just because she disagrees.

  • Carrie,

    I love your blog. This is a great article. Co-parenting is definitely hard, especially when all parties involved just really do not know how or simply don’t want to put for the the effort to do so. Your term is a great one, “parallel parenting!” As we always say over at Today’s Modern Family, parents have to have the same frame of mind and have to be “willing” participants in order to co-parent effectively. The sad part is, children who are already having to experience grief over divorce cannot find peace when their parents continue to open the wound by not being able to effectively parent them due to their own issues. By realizing that “co-parenting” may not be for them in particular, “parallel parenting” is a great choice!

    Thank you for your work on behalf of blended families everywhere.

    Diane Greene

    • Diane,

      Thank you very much for your kind words. I wish I could stake claim on the term “Parallel Parenting”, however someone else already did that. But like I said, finding a term for it made a world of difference for me.

      I completely agree that it is sad that children are the ones who have to pay for their parent’s lack of skills. I know for my husband and myself, we have found that by just living our lives and having very little contact with our children’s other parents has helped immensely. Even if you try to hide the conflict with your exes from the children, they still can feel the tension. Less contact for us is much better.

      Thanks again,


  • Deesha Philyaw:

    It was a great day for us when we discovered Kerri Wall’s blog http://offthewallparenting.blogspot.com/. On it, she shares her experiences as a parallel parent. Kerri is great resource for anyone who is or is considering parallel parenting.

    Many parents who are struggling and whose kids are suffering find relief upon knowing that there’s a “name” for what they’ve been doing or are striving to do to minimize post-divorce conflict, instead of trying to force co-parenting to work.

    After we cyber-met Kerri, here’s a post we did on parallel parenting. It breaks down how it differs from traditional co-parenting in key ways:


    All the best to you and your family, Cdahle!

    Deesha Philyaw, co-founder

    Co-Parenting 101

    • Deesha,

      Thank you so very much for sharing. I agree it is an absolute relief when you discover that co-parenting is not the only option. It is even more of a relief to find a “name” for the parenting style you have been doing all along. Like I said in my post the term “parallel parenting” has saved me.


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