If you’ve endured a marriage with a narcissist, the idea of co-parenting with them after you’ve left them is probably something you’re dreading. While you like to get completely away from them, the reality is that if you share children with them, they will always be a part of your life. Of course, if they’re physically abusive, you could and should get sole custody without visitation, but barring that, you have to find a way to make it work for the sake of your children.
The most important consideration is your children’s safety, and you should commit to that over all else. There are several other strategies you can employ that will make your interactions easier and help your children cope with the changes and any emotional abuse from their narcissistic parent.
It’s vital for your children and their emotional health that you have a plan in place for co-parenting so that they will know what to expect. You also need to set strong boundaries for the narcissist, and to do that, you need to understand the following strategies thoroughly.
1. Commit to Safety
The most important thing to ensure is your children’s safety. Narcissists are almost without fail emotionally abusive, but some are also physically abusive. They frequently misinterpret normal child defiance as a personal insult. If they are physically abusive, you need to file a police report and seek full custody immediately.
If you see them yelling at, degrading, or otherwise emotionally abusing your child, you should take immediate steps to get the child out of that situation. This will help solidify your relationship with your child since they will know you will protect them. If they thought you wouldn’t be there to take care of them, that could traumatize them more than the abuse from the narcissist.
When you see your narcissistic ex doing something unacceptable to your children, speak up about it and take the child to another room. Be sure to also apologize to your child for what they had to deal with and let them know they can always tell you when your ex does something like that and you will protect them.
It’s also important to document every instance where your narcissistic ex acts abusively toward you or your children. Note the date, time, circumstances, and how you responded to the situation. Be as thorough as possible.
2. Seek Counseling for Yourself and Your Children
After suffering through narcissistic abuse, you’ll need to process the feelings you have about everything you experienced. It’s also important to help your children process both their feelings about your divorce and deal with any ongoing narcissistic abuse they may have to deal with around their other parent.
A therapist can also help you work through strategies for problem-solving as well as coping with the interactions you still will need to have with your narcissistic ex. They can also help your child to understand better how to recognize and protect themselves from narcissistic manipulation tactics.
3. Try Parallel Parenting Instead
Co-parenting implies you’re working as a team, but that’s rarely the case with a narcissist. Instead, you might want to think of them as a parallel parent which means you’ll be doing things separately. You might still have to discuss certain parenting strategies if, for example, your child has problems in school and you both need to address them, but parallel parenting will overall minimize your contact with your narcissistic ex.
4. Document Everything and Keep Your Documents in Order
Always keep a journal of the interactions you’ve had with your narcissistic ex. Note time, date, circumstances, and both of your responses. Be sure to keep this journal and all legal documents in a safe place where you can access them whenever you need them.
You should also document and keep any informal agreements you have about parenting, visitation, and who will take the child to which events. It’s also a good idea to determine neutral, public places where you can drop off or pick up your child. Keep a record of these including the specific dates and times of each.
If you have to battle out a divorce in court, the court will likely appoint a guardian to represent your children. Your documentation of previous incidents can come in handy in that case. The judge will use the information provided by each party and the guardian to determine what’s best for the children.
5. Minimize Contact
Whenever you’re dealing with a narcissistic ex, it’s best to minimize the contact you have with them. You likely agitate each other when you do have contact and that also has an effect on your children.
When you do have it to contact them, do it through email so that you have a written, electronic record of what was discussed and decided. It probably won’t be difficult to follow this piece of advice, but what about when you have to have contact with them?
6. Go Grey Rock When Interacting with Your Ex
The first thing to know is that if you have to interact with your ex about your child, it’s best if the child is not there. The narcissist will use them to try to get more of a reaction out of you and that will make it harder to use the ‘grey rock’ technique.
Narcissists live to get a rise out of you because when they do, they have a better idea of what triggers you and will use that in the future. Don’t give them any ammunition. Instead, be as uninteresting as possible.
This is an actual technique called ‘grey rock.’ A grey rock isn’t very interesting, and you won’t spend much time doing anything with it. That’s how you want to appear to your narcissistic ex. Keep your responses to their remarks or questions monosyllabic responses that get straight to the point and are devoid of any emotion.
You’ll also want to stick strictly to the issue you’re discussing. It can even help to write out what you want to cover so that you can stick to the topic when they try to distract you. If they do succeed in triggering you, try to stay calm. They want to see you react emotionally and they will use it against you.
It’s also important to remember that no matter what they say, you are not at fault. They will never apologize for anything, of course, but you know the truth. You might cry or scream later when you’re no longer around them, but keep it cool while you’re in their presence.
The end goal of co- or parallel parenting is the safety and well-being of your children. They have to be number one in your mind, particularly if your ex is a narcissist. The narcissist will only be thinking about themselves and making it seem like they are the victim of the breakup and the best parent.
You’ll have to be the adult in the situation so that you can keep your children safe and help them process the emotions they will definitely be having about your divorce. Keep your focus on your children and make the best decisions for them.
If you’re co- or parallel parenting with a narcissist, you’ll also want to watch this post about the different ways that narcissistic parents will manipulate you. It will help you understand better what your children might be going through.
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