Parallel? Co-operative? Conflicted? You and your partner may have made a conscious or an unconscious choice about your parenting style when your children arrived. Divorce and separation, however, requires parents to make a conscious choice.
In family mediation, parents have the opportunity to determine the type of co-parenting style they will use to raise their children in their newly separated family. Will it be difficult for the children to move between your houses? Will you make it so that your children can smoothly transition between each house? Will your children look back and remember their childhood as a time when things were tough but they knew that you were both a co-parenting team? or will your children feel that every transition was fraught with tension?
For some parents they have always been co-operative and as they separate they are able to work hard to focus their co-parenting on their children and not on their adult relationship. For other parents the fallout from the hurt and pain of their separation impacts every aspect of their co-parenting. It can seem that these are the only two options - co-operative or conflicted co-parenting.
In family mediation it may be helpful for parents to consider a third option - parallel or disengaged parenting. Dr Isolina Ricci's book, Mom's House Dad's House, has given numerous families a practical pathway to parallel parenting. When parents decide that open co-operation is too difficult to achieve and open warfare is too harmful to their children, there is a third option. Parallel parenting allows for parents to continue to co-parent with structures e.g. communication rules, and a responsibility not to undermine the other parent.
In the coming weeks, I will focus on how parallel parenting can help families transition through separation and divorce.