Co-parenting with A Narcissist
The end of any relationship is a painful experience but when you add kids to the picture it brings a more complicated aspect which is how both parents will harmoniously meet their kids’ needs. For a ‘normal’ relationship where both parents had mutual interest in the child’s well-being, growth and development, they can decide to co-parent. This is where they agree on how they will mutually meet the child’s welfare and needs like educational needs or extracurricular activities. This can only happen when the two parents have a friendly and supportive relationship despite living separately. That’s why it’s a bit complicated to co-parent with someone with narcissistic traits as it’s not possible to get that level of cooperation and friendliness. When it comes to parenting with a narcissist ex, the best approach is what is referred to as parallel parenting.
Parallel Parenting is an approach where parents minimize their interaction with one another but coordinate on the different aspects of the child-rearing as required. Parallel parenting is the best choice when dealing with a narcissist parent as it reduces the potential of being hooked back into the cycle of abuse. The success of this will require more initial planning and it might require an involvement of a third party to keep things running more smoothly. It’s good to be aware that the fact you’re parenting with a narc or have an agreement with them doesn’t mean that they won’t continue their mischief. There are a number of matters which arise when it comes to parenting with a narcissist because of their controlling and manipulative nature.
Issues That May Arise with Co-parenting with a Narcissist
· Empty and unfulfilled promises to the kids or to the co-parent
· Not following through on some of the commitments
· Talking ill and peddling lies about the co-parent to the kids
· Doing the opposite of what you tell them to do
· Using the kids (directly or indirectly) to pass a message to you
· Acting as if their participation is a choice while the other parent’s involvement is obligatory
· Competing to win the child over through expensive gifts and retreats
· Calling you or texting you at all hours with the pretense that they’re just checking up on the kids
· Doing the opposite of what you expect them to do for the kids (buying them junk food & other unhealthy habits)
· Blaming you for the kid’s shortcomings (like if they get poor grades in school)
· Last-minute changes in the schedule and spontaneous cancellations
· Coming to your home unannounced
There are just many issues which will may make it really hard for to successfully parent with a narcissist Ex. That’s why being one step ahead of the game is very important in order to pull this off. This will involve you doing something you wouldn’t have considered under normal circumstances but it has to be done because you’re dealing with a serial manipulator.
How to Successfully Co-parent with a Narcissist (Parallel Parenting)
1. Avoid Phone Calls or Instant Messaging — Use Email Communication Only
When it comes to dealing with a narcissist co-parent, the best way is to minimize communicating with them because the more you interact with them the more they will try to hurt you with their verbally abusive ways. That’s why email communication is the best way to go. When you want to communicate with them, send them a detailed email with everything you want to communicate on. Make it really official as if you’re sending it to a busy CEO somewhere, do not bloat it with unnecessary details. The beauty of email is that it will provide a certain kind of discipline as they know they cannot intimidate you as it can be used as evidence- unlike phone calls. Email will also provide a great reference point in case there are issues later on in your parenting plan. In fact, it’s the best way to document your conversations which you can present to the court if you ever have to file a harassment order or simply want to demonstrate their instability to your attorney. To make this email system effective, you can also communicate with them on the times you will be checking your emails so that you don’t find yourself mindlessly reloading your email as you wait for their messages.
Do not turn email into another form of instant messaging, reply only when it’s necessary and when it only involves the kid’s welfare. Ignore all the rest of the emails like those one where they will apologize or love bomb you. One last thing is that email communication will not evoke much emotion from you unlike a phone call or word of mouth communication where the narcissist might communicate emotionally to try to hurt you or manipulate you.
2. Lower your Expectations & focus on what you Can Control
This is a tough one to chew as any parent will have thoughts like, “How can they do that to their own kids.” One thing that will save you from mental distress when parenting with a narc is to have Zero expectations on what they’re supposed to do and what they’re not. This is because they think differently from you and they will go to great and even unnatural extents to satisfy their needs. They might leave the kids alone in the house and go for a party or they might do drugs in front of their kids or just do something which doesn’t uplift the kid’s welfare or something you don’t like. That’s why it’s good not to dwell so much on the things they do because you will never fully understand and it will just keep you constantly worried. This will mean that you just have to focus on what you can control in all situations. This can be biting that bitter pill that when a narc co-parent is with the kids there’s nothing more you can do and no obsessively thinking about what may be going on with them will make things better for you. It’s more like, you just trust that everything will be okay and your kids will be back home safe. (Please note — if you suspect any kind of physical or sexual abuse, you should report it to the authorities immediately).
3. Set and Uphold Clear Boundaries
Boundaries are just things you cannot tolerate and an outline of how you deserve to be treated. When it comes to parenting with an ex narcissist, this will really come in handy as they will constantly try to walk over you. The best way to handle them is to be assertive and stand your ground on things you cannot tolerate from them. This can be something like not letting them into you home or hanging up when they try to manipulate you or not entertaining last-minute change in schedule or just plainly denying when they want a ‘favor’ from you or anything which goes against what you stand for. As long as you’re still communicating with them, they will always try to control you and manipulate and your boundaries will be there to keep you away from their gimmicks. Boundaries will protect you from being taken advantage of by the narcissist.
4. Be the Better Parent
The challenge with parenting with a narcissist is the fact that there’s no mutual cooperation on meeting the kid’s welfare and that’s why you need to step up and be the better parent in this scenario. This means that you become the caring parent at all times by listening to your kids & acknowledging their feelings. You focus on nurturing the child in the best way possible and being there for them without even thinking of what the other party is supposed to do. This will also mean working on yourself to the point that your anger or resentment towards the other co-parent does not trickle down to how you take care of your kids.
As a better parent, you also need to avoid talking ill about your Ex in front of your kids. If you talk badly about your Ex in front of them, it leads to frustration, confusion, and resentment in them. You need to be a great role model of maturity and emotional control since your children are already dealing with enough chaos. You can find better and healthy ways of channeling your frustration of the situation you’re in. The kids will eventually see your Ex for who they are. This also means understanding that your kids may be manipulated to hate you but you’ve got to see through it and still stand up as that caring and loving parent without hating your kids.
5. Document Everything
When dealing with a narcissist co-parent the best thing to do it to document everything when you have shared custody. This includes recording all visitations, doctor’s appointments, photographs of any dangerous situations the kids are involved in, money you’ve received from the narc for child support. Be clear enough with everything surrounding your parenting schedule as this written guidelines and documentation can help mitigate the inevitable fights and it makes it easier to hold them accountable. This will also prevent the narc from shifting the blame or gaslighting you on something as it’s well-documented. This information can also be shared to legal authorities if need be or when you needs adjustment in the parenting plan.
Parenting with a narcissist is not an easy thing to do but it is still possible for you to make it work and have your kid’s needs met while still taking care of yourself. It’s good to understand that the fact that you’ve separated with a narcissist does not mean they’ve left your life completely, they will still try to win you back. This is because for them it’s all about supply and getting their needs met. That’s why the only one who can keep them way is you. You need to be assertive and keep your boundaries up. Do not entertain their mischief as if you do they will subject you to the same cycle of abuse. As you have made this decision to leave the relationship, commit to also healing to the point that the narcissist does not trigger you and you can see through their manipulation 50 miles away- their manipulative tactics become like a joke to you. If you have to seek help to do it, do it and do not postpone it.
Note from the Author
If you’d like my help with healing, finding peace in life and breaking free from this cycle of abuse in 2 months or Less, you can book a call with me HERE. Happy healing 💙💙. Feel free to share and comment!
- Arabi, Shahida. Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself. SCW Archer Publishing. Kindle Edition.