Co-Parenting with a Narcissist
After you end your relationship with someone who is a narcissist, it can take years to recover from the emotional damage. When you have children with the individual, the antagonism and drama you may have thought you left behind in your marriage is likely to continue on through your parenting relationship. Trying to co-parent when the other parent is a narcissist is not an easy task. However, by taking certain steps, you can help minimize conflict and stress when it comes to your kids.
The American Psychiatry Association defines someone who has narcissistic personality disorder as having a pattern of need for admiration and lack of empathy for others. The individual may have “a grandiose sense of self-importance, a sense of entitlement, take advantage of others or lack empathy.” When interacting, a person with this condition may be easily offended and often express rage and belittle others.
Stay Calm and Neutral
A narcissistic parent may believe that they are correct about everything to do with the children. They are also adept at pushing your buttons and will try to keep you engaged in conflict. You cannot realistically expect the other parent to interact reasonably or fairly with you. However, you can keep your contact to a minimum and maintain neutrality whenever possible.
Maintain Boundaries and Stability
When your children have placement time with the other parent, you may have to accept that you can’t control what happens. You can, however, maintain boundaries and consistency in your own home. Despite the other parent’s behavior, you want your children to know that your home is a safe and stable place in which they know what to expect.
Follow the Plan
During your divorce, you and your ex will have probably have carefully crafted a parenting plan which sets out the rules and parameters on how you are going to share decisions and time with your children. Hopefully, you spent time developing a very detailed plan with some idea of how the other parent may behave. Follow the plan and maintain boundaries when your ex tries to deviate from the terms. Remember, if your ex is trying to move things around it is probably so they can exploit the situation for his or her benefit. A narcissist wants conflict and chaos, so the less emotional you are during the interaction and exchanges, the better.
Show Empathy and Love
When it comes to being empathetic, narcissists are at a severe disadvantage. Your children need to know that a parent cares about their well-being and feelings. Be sure to express empathy when they are with you and focus on making sure they feel loved, supported, and understood in your home. Additionally, do what you can to avoid disparaging your ex around your children. If your kids need to talk about the other parent, you may want to consider helping them find a therapist.
Raising children with a narcissist is probably always going to be problematic, but by controlling your own conduct, making your home a healthy space, and refraining from unnecessary interactions with your ex, you can help minimize the stress for you and your children.
Attorney Karyn Youso has experience with divorce mediation and helping clients create effective parenting plans. She understands what it's like when one parent is a narcissist. Call us, and we can talk about your goals and help you take a “first look” at your situation and consider your options.