Among the many conversations had with divorcing couples in mediation is how they may parent together while living apart and sharing time with their children. This conversation entails a broad range of issues. First, and most obvious is the schedule. Oftentimes we hear that each parent wants “50-50” time with the children. This may or may not feel like a challenging negotiation to the parties. Increasingly, it is assumed by the parents in our practice, that while they may not be counting the days and hours, they are both hoping to be full participants in all aspects of child rearing. In mediation, we try to help parties develop a plan that meets the needs of the children, but also fits as comfortably and realistically as possible, given their personal and professional obligations. Next, we move on to discussing holidays and special days, including mom and dad’s birthdays and how much time each parent will spend with the children during the long summer months.
With respect to decision-making, parents often are under mistaken belief that they must have the same rules and rhythms in each household or else the kids will be parented inconsistently – and thus suffer. Are all the after-school snacks organic? Is TV after school allowed, or must homework be completed first? What about bedtime? Household chores? It may be surprising to learn that studies show that these details may be approached differently in each home and that can be a good thing. In other words, parallel parenting builds independent relationships and resilience. Two big caveats: the first is, ALWAYS keep the kids out of your conflict around any given issue. If you hate the thought of Junior relaxing before dinner watching SpongeBob with a bowl of ice cream, you may approach the other parent privately to discuss your concerns. Or, perhaps better yet, pick your battles. The second big caveat: you should attempt to agree on terms that affect major safety milestones such as, when children may take public transportation alone or stay home alone, for example. Safety concerns are a distinct category because inconsistencies give rise to conflict and, potentially, harm.
To learn more about Parallel Parenting, here’s a start: http://drallisonbell.com/collaborative-artlcles/the-definition-and-merits-of-parallel-parenting/