Co-parenting can be challenging in any circumstance. Making decisions about your children’s education, medical care, upbringing, and other aspects can be difficult when working together with someone who lives separately and may have differing opinions. What becomes even more challenging is when you are co-parenting with a narcissist or someone who exhibits those traits.
MayoClinic defines narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) as a mental health condition where people have an unreasonably high sense of their own importance. They need and also seek too much attention and want people to admire them. In addition, people with this disorder may lack the ability to understand or care about other people’s feelings. Narcissism is a spectrum, and everyone can show occasional narcissistic behavior. However, true narcissists will frequently disregard others and/or their feelings and may be diagnosed with NPD.
Tips for Co-Parenting with a Narcissist
Co-parenting with a narcissist can be exhausting and stressful. Your boundaries may be pushed against or even crossed, and your ex may react negatively to criticism. Despite how draining working together may be, there are a few tips you can follow to help ease parenting with a narcissist.
Establish a Legal Parenting Plan
Creating a legal parenting plan—also known as a custody or visitation agreement—can help protect your wishes and your children’s wellbeing. You can work with a lawyer to establish legal agreements on the following:
-Visitation and custody
-Finances and support
Establishing a legal parenting plan sets boundaries not only for your children but for you and your ex as well. A narcissist may try to be overly involved in the child’s life or in some cases not participate at all. In either scenario, having a documented parenting plan can help protect against a co-parent who may try to manipulate certain situations. Make sure to have as many details as possible listed under the custody agreement for clarity.
Having interactions with your co-parent clearly documented can also be useful. This can provide crucial evidence should you need proof to support restraining orders, changes within custody, etc. in the future.
Create Clear Boundaries
While creating a legal parenting plan builds a firm structure for working together, forming boundaries about communication, attending children’s events together, etc. is suggested. Be clear and specific about these boundaries. Examples may include only communicating through text or email, deciding who will go to your children’s school events, etc. Setting these boundaries can help eliminate conflict. A narcissist may try to push against these boundaries, but it is important to stay firm. Try to hold your ground and avoid being pressured into bending your boundaries.
Try to Avoid Emotional Reactions
It can be difficult to control your emotions but doing your best to remain calm when dealing with a narcissist will be beneficial. This can be especially challenging as a person with narcissistic traits may intentionally try to get a reaction from you. It’s important to remind yourself that staying level-headed will help your emotional wellness and create a more stable environment for your children. However, it is also equally as important to not be hard on yourself when you become emotional. Co-parenting is a challenge within itself and becomes more so when trying to work with a narcissist.
Avoid Bringing Children into Conflicts
Try to keep conflicts and disagreements with your co-parent away from your children. This helps support children who are already trying to cope with new living arrangements and schedules from being deregulated. Also avoid speaking ill of your co-parent in front of your children as this may put your child at the center of an issue they do not belong in. It can also add stress on your child—forcing them to take sides.
It can be difficult to avoid becoming overwhelmed while co-parenting but try your best to remember to parent your child empathetically. Parenting empathetically means putting yourself in your child’s shoes and responding to situations in ways that will take your child’s feelings into account.
You can parent more empathetically by trying to see how your child feels in certain situations and if they are old enough, talking to them about how they feel. Both you and your child are going through difficult changes and being supportive and understanding can help relieve your child of worries and stresses.
Growing up with a narcissistic parent puts your child at risk of low self-esteem and later developing mental health or psychiatric issues. Do your best to be a positive light in your kid’s childhood. By parenting empathetically and practicing open communication, you can help your child build their self-esteem and confidence despite having a narcissistic parent.
Consider Parallel Parenting
In some cases, co-parenting may not be the best option for families. If you have come to this conclusion, parallel parenting may be a better alternative. This parenting style allows you to stop contact with your ex-partner as much as possible. Examples of this method include not attending school events with the other parent and choosing neutral pick-up and drop-off spots for visitations. If you decide parallel parenting may be for you, consider going through family court to make modifications to your divorce or custody settlement.
Find a Therapist
Lastly, finding a therapist for you or your child, or even attending family therapy together may be beneficial in tumultuous times. A licensed therapist can help you work through issues and be a neutral person to help you assess situations. They can provide guidance as you work to co-parent with a narcissist who may be manipulative, unempathetic, and disrespectful of your boundaries. For your child, this can be an opportunity for them to work through their feelings about divorce and having a narcissistic parent. In addition, a therapist can be someone to help you and your child learn coping mechanisms and how to navigate having a narcissist in your lives.
Find Help with a Divorce Attorney
Adjusting to life after a divorce or separation can be difficult, especially when trying to work with a narcissist. An attorney can help you make adjustments in visitation rights, child custody, and child support.
Our staff at Fitzpatrick Mariano Santos Sousa P.C. can provide legal assistance for you if you and your ex-spouse have difficulty compromising. With over 100 years of collective legal experience, we are dedicated to helping you find the most positive outcome.
Call today at (203) 583-8299 or contact us online for a free consultation.