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10 Survival Tips for Co-Parenting With a Narcissist

co parenting with a narcissist

Co-parenting with a narcissist is like a rollercoaster ride that you desperately want to get off of. The ups and downs can make you genuinely question your own sanity.

But don’t give up yet — there IS a way to deal with narcissistic co-parents in a constructive way that benefits both parents and child.

While it may seem far-off, there are proven methods to help you not only survive but thrive when co-parenting with a narcissist who is committed to making things harder than they have to be.

1. Set Firm Boundaries

Set firm boundaries to protect your personal space and sanity. Narcissistic parents are known for continually pushing your limits, so stand your ground.

Don’t be afraid to clearly define what’s acceptable behavior and what isn’t. This might involve limiting communication to only matters concerning your kids or setting rules about pick-up and drop-off times.

Don’t let the narcissist manipulate or intimidate you into bending to what they want. By staying strong, you’re not just protecting yourself but also creating a more stable environment for your children.

2. Consider Parallel Parenting Over Co-Parenting

Sometimes, a traditional co-parenting relationship is just too stressful. After all, how can you expect your children to thrive if you’re constantly bickering with your ex? If this is the case, parallel parenting instead of co-parenting may be a more viable option. This method allows you to separate your parenting from the narcissist parent, reducing direct conflict.

In parallel parenting, you and the narcissist operate independently, making your own decisions when the child is with you. It’s a way to protect yourself from the emotional stress often associated with co-parenting with a narcissistic parent.

Just remember, this approach requires a well-detailed parenting plan and strict boundaries. It’s not an easy out, but when implemented effectively, it can definitely help.

3. Focus on the Child(ren)

Your primary focus should be on the child’s well-being, not on the narcissistic actions of your ex. Prioritize your child’s needs and emotions in every decision you make. Instead of pulling your hair out about what your ex is or isn’t doing, focus on what you can control.

  1. Stability Matters: Children thrive in stable environments. Establish routines that provide a sense of predictability, helping your children feel secure amid the changes brought about by co-parenting dynamics.
  2. Encourage Open Communication: Foster an environment where your children feel comfortable expressing their feelings. Encourage them to share their thoughts and concerns without fear of judgment, facilitating a healthy emotional outlet.
  3. Quality Time Is Key: Dedicate quality time to engage in activities your children enjoy. This not only strengthens your parent-child bond but also makes your children feel valued and appreciated.

Whether it’s playing a board game, going for a bike ride, or cooking a meal together, giving your undivided attention during these moments is crucial.

Always remember the end goal: providing a stable, loving environment for your child.

4. Document Everything

Keeping a detailed record of all interactions with your narcissistic co-parent is crucial for maintaining clarity and accountability. High-conflict co-parenting often involves unexpected twists, and your narcissistic ex may manipulate situations to their advantage. That’s why it’s absolutely essential to document everything.

This not only helps you stay organized but also provides solid evidence should you need it. Make a note of conversations, agreements, disagreements, and your child’s behavior before and after visits. Timestamp and date all your entries for accuracy.

5. Get Emotional Support

As cliche as it sounds, it really does take a village. And when the person who is supposed to be supporting you is impossible to deal with, protecting your peace and mental health is the best thing you can do for yourself.

Consider these avenues for support:

  • Support Groups: There are plenty of groups specifically tailored for those recovering from narcissistic abuse. Here, you can share your experiences and learn from others in similar situations.
  • Therapists: Finding the right therapist who understands narcissistic abuse is vital. They can provide you with strategies to handle your situation effectively.
  • Loved Ones: There’s no better support than from those who love you. Lean on your loved ones during this time, and don’t be afraid to open up about your struggles.

Narcissistic individuals thrive off of making you feel isolated. Don’t try to go up against them alone. Enlist the help to get you through to the other side.

6. Stay Calm and Detached

When you are no longer under a narcissist’s control, they will try everything in their power to reassert their dominance. They will try to manipulate, gaslight, and confuse you. But remember, your reactions can either fuel or diffuse the situation.

Maintain your composure, even when provoked. Stay calm, avoid emotional reactions, and avoid getting pulled into unnecessary conflicts. This doesn’t mean you’re surrendering control. Instead, you’re strategically choosing your battles and conserving your energy for what truly matters – your child’s wellbeing.

7. Involve Professionals

If you’re going through a high-conflict divorce or dealing with an impossible co-parenting situation, hiring an attorney is in your best interest—and here’s why.

Working with a lawyer provides essential support and objectivity that family members, friends, and other professionals just can’t provide. An attorney has the insight to be able to tell you what your options are within the realm of the law and draft legal documents that protect you and your child(ren). Not to mention, they act as a buffer between you and your ex, allowing you to negotiate and communicate effectively and manage crises when needed.

At Steele Family Law, we have extensive experience in handling cases involving narcissistic personality disorder. We can safeguard your rights and prioritize your child’s well-being by ensuring your co-parenting agreement is fair and appropriate.

8. Be Prepared for the Manipulation

Narcissistic behavior can include guilt trips, gaslighting, and playing the victim. These tactics are designed to keep you off balance and second-guessing yourself.

Be prepared for the manipulation by setting firm boundaries and sticking to them, regardless of the guilt or pressure your ex-partner may apply. It’s essential to maintain your resolve and not allow your ex-partner to control the narrative.

9. Make Everything Legal

Set your co-parenting arrangements in stone via legal documents. There is no such thing as informal parenting arrangements with a narcissist—it’s a recipe for disaster.

Instead, consult a child custody lawyer about setting up legal custody arrangements, parenting plans, and visitation schedules. The more detailed your plan, the better, allowing less wiggle room for your narcissistic ex.

Also, by formally documenting a plan, you will have legal recourse when/if they deviate from it.

10. Follow Court Orders

Once your parenting agreement is in place, follow those court orders to the letter. Not only does it keep you out of hot water, but it provides consistency for your children and shows your ex that you’re maintaining your boundaries.

If they deviate from the parenting plan, document it. This can be used as evidence if your custody agreement needs to be re-evaluated by the court.

Contact Steele Family Law Today

If you’re struggling with co-parenting with a narcissist, contact Steele Family Law today. With years of experience dealing with somewhat toxic family dynamics, we’re here to help you navigate your shared parenting arrangement.

Not only do we provide survival tips, but we also offer compassionate and professional legal representation.

Our team at Steele Family Law helps you by:

  • Providing practical strategies for co-parenting with a narcissist
  • Helping establish and maintain strong boundaries
  • Assisting with clear communication strategies
  • Providing legal representation in family law matters
  • Supporting you in establishing fair shared parenting arrangements

Dealing with a narcissist is infuriating—especially when no one sees the emotional abuse you’re enduring. But we’re here for you.

If you’re struggling with co-parenting, consult our Anderson, SC family law attorneys today. Let us help you navigate this challenging journey towards a healthier co-parenting relationship.

Author Bio

Greg Steele is CEO and Managing Partner of Steele Family Law, a South Carolina estate planning and family law firm. With years of experience in practicing law, he has zealously represented clients in a wide range of legal matters, including divorce, child custody and support, estate planning, probate, and other legal cases.

Greg received his Juris Doctor from the University of Georgia and is a member of the South Carolina Bar Association. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including being named among Anderson’s Top 20 Under 40 in 2022.

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