Are you co-parenting with a narcissist? Your Childrens future is at stake!

If you’ve made it through the divorce with a narcissist, you know that a narcissistic person prides themselves on how dirty and nasty they can get. Many experts believe that the narcissist enjoys ruining you, because seeing you suffer as a result shows them they are still controlling you. That gives them supply. After speaking with thousands of men and women, who have gone through the ‘war of a lifetime’ during a divorce with a narcissist, the ones my heart goes out to most are the ones that have children with them. The battlefront has moved from the courtroom to the end of their own driveway as they pick up the kids.

As with anything in life we look for ways to prepare, plan and anticipate life’s challenges. When you are co-parenting with someone that knows your strengths and weaknesses, and consistently uses them to hurt you, it might seem like there is no way to prepare for the daily barrage of lies, smears and obstacles you need to navigate. The good news is you can create peace and protect your children from harm, but it will require you to change your methods of dealing with the narcissistic parent.

Being blindsided with affidavits, false accusations and other parents looking at you funny when you pick up the kids at school will likely be part of your life until things calm down. While you can’t plan on when these things might happen, you can learn to expect this nasty behavior and create a solid defensive reaction plan so that when these things happen you are not thrown into a tailspin that leaves you not wanting to get out of bed. It’s the stealth surprise of most things that throws you into that tailspin.

Expect the nasty backhanded remarks and character attacks, but also know your truth. Understand that the narcissist usually attacks your greatest strengths. If you are a great mom or dad, expect them to tell the world you are not. It’s in the expectation of this attack where you will find your strength. They are doing this to smear your name, but also to pump themselves up as the good parent in the eyes of whomever they are smearing you to. Narcissists need to blame someone else and deflect from the abusive behaviors they are doing. Sadly for now, you are the one to take the brunt of this blame and shame.

If you know you are a good parent, then why would you allow a lie like this to bother you? Is it because your ex, the one you thought once loved you, is saying it? Remember what they did in the divorce? Was there any truth in those lies? Expecting them to be kind and supportive, even for the child’s sake, will never happen. This is the first place to begin to ground yourself; these are lies. Period. People that really know you, know they are lies. People that believe the narcissist’s lies are not people you should care about anymore. This shows you they were never really true friends in the first place. Losing friends is painful, but in this case, you are only cleaning house to get rid of people that do not believe in you and are not supporting you. Good riddance! Sadly, this concept also might apply to your own family and it is harder to believe that a family member could betray you like this. If your family members side with your ex, don’t waste your time explaining why they should not be defending your ex or teaching them that they should be supporting you. If possible, this is a time to pull away from your family until things settle down, because if they have drank the narc-Kool-Aid they could be used as a flying monkey bringing your concerns and feelings to the ex and that might then be used against you. This is a common triangulation tactic.

I know what I am suggesting hurts and the idea that you must step away from your friends and family because of them seems so unfair. It is unfair, but now is the time to protect yourself and your kids. This does not have to be a permanent decision, but what you need here is to give the vampire-ex less opportunities to gain access to intel that they can use against you and your kids.

Before we get deeper into the co-parenting with a narcissist, you need to first understand the DSM’s Criteria for any narcissist.

The disorder begins by early adulthood and is indicated by at least five of the following to be medically diagnosed as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder

An exaggerated sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
Believes he/she is “special” and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
Requires excessive admiration
Has a sense of entitlement
Selfishly takes advantage of others to achieve his own ends
Lacks empathy
Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him
Shows arrogant, haughty, patronizing, or contemptuous behaviors or attitudes

Prefer to learn by watching video on Co-parenting with a Narcissist

Co-parenting with an abusive person holds so many challenges

PICK YOUR CO-PARENTING BATTLES

Kids eating cookies for breakfast won’t kill them and for a while, this might seem fun to them. Over time, when they are at your house eating a proper breakfast, you can teach them about nutrition and how food powers their little bodies. One day they will speak up to the other parent and demand a healthy breakfast.

Kids staying up all night also is not life-threatening, despite them being tired for days after a sleepover and you needing to get them back on a routine again. This is not something you will ever have power over until your child sees the problems with lack of sleep.

Kids not doing homework when with the other parent may not be something you can ever change, but your child will end up paying the price for that behavior with bad grades. That is when the opportunity to teach them what is right and wrong and beneficial or not arises. You want them to make better choices for themselves and tell the other parent so. If you can empower them to set this type of boundary for themselves, then the narcissist will have no real power to hurt them.

Not keeping the children in a car seat is a danger to them and when their safety is involved you may need to act. Involving a legal team is a costly way to fight this battle, instead, teach the kids about safety and teach them to advocate for themselves. Document this and keep track, so if you need to take it to court, it won’t seem like you are making things up. Remember the word hearsay. Judges will not listen to this complaint that you are hearing from a five-year-old. You will have to have seen this yourself. Write down notes about conversations you had with your ex about reminding them to buckle up. If it’s a reoccurring thing you are always fighting over, check your states recording laws and record those warning conversations.

Letting your teenager stay out all night may not be your rules, but this isn’t safe or smart and would warrant conversations with your ex.

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WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT CO-PARENTING WITH A NARCISSISTIC

Your own guilt: You didn’t create a child with a narcissist to ruin your kid’s life. Every parent I talk to experiences guilt that they should not have had a child with a narcissistic spouse. Give yourself a break here as this guilt is only hurting you. When you decided to have a child with your ex, you probably didn’t know they had this personality disorder. You probably heard the stories of how your partner wanted kids so badly and how they couldn’t wait to have them with you. You were conned by an expert that was just passing along exactly what you wanted to hear. You cannot blame yourself; your kids’ lives are not in peril and they won’t necessarily turn into a narcissist by having a narcissistic parent. These are fears, and while they seem to consume your mind, this is not the kids’ destiny. You hold the key to turning them into balanced little people and then strong and empowered adults who’ll have the power to identify bad behaviors and stop the cycle of abuse from continuing with them in a relationship later in life.

Your kids are turned against you: A narcissistic injury occurs when the narcissist feels trapped and feels that they have no control. Losing parenting time will cause this injury if your divorce didn’t already. We also know narcissists lie, so expect them to lie about how your relationship ended and expect to be the villain in that story. They usually attempt to turn the kids against you, to hurt you without any care for the children’s well-being. Understanding and expecting this tactic gives you an advantage. It’s not easy, and it hurts so much to watch your children pull away from you and towards an abusive parent, but you can do things to stop the kids from being controlled. Create rules in your house about acceptable behavior, create memories with your child so they see that you are not the things the other parent is claiming. Explain to your children if they are at an age to understand that divorced people don’t see things the same way, and that they might hear things that are different than what you say. Give them an open door to come to you with questions. Get them to a therapist so they can evaluate the lies told to them themselves. If your ex takes this to the next level, parental alienation might be happening and while it is an expensive option, you can take your concerns (with proof) to a judge.

Beware of threats and the use of guilt: As they try to rattle a reaction out of you, remember your reaction IS the supply they are seeking at this point.

More than one child: We all know the rules of parenting to treat each child with equal love and honor each child’s strengths and passions. However, a narcissistic parent latches onto the weakest pray or perhaps your closest child to hurt you by playing favorites. One child is pitted against the other as this creates jealousy among the siblings and triangulation to break up closeness between them. Staying close means staying stronger and a narcissist wants to divide, even if it costs one child pain from being rejected. The favorite, or the golden child, is treated one way and the scapegoat another way. All of this is about control and controlling your reaction is key to this tactic.

Self-care: Putting your oxygen mask on first must be your rule from this point forward. Let me be clear here; this is not being selfish and self-serving like a narcissist, but in order to be strong for your kids you need to take the time to do something for yourself. Exercise, yoga and meditation is always good, but reading your favorite book or taking a walk is just as good. If knowing that you are going to have to interact with your ex can cause you anxiety (which causes symptoms like heart palpitations, muscle tension, and brain fogginess), get help by seeing a coach or therapist who really understands what is happening. They can help by validating your concerns and by helping you find strategies to calm yourself.

Parental Alienation protection: When they go low, you go high. Narcissistic parents almost always claim you are alienating the kids from them. This is a classic example of no accountability. To nurture any relationship, you must be present, kind and supportive, and since everything must be about the narcissist, they often make terrible parents. Because they will accuse you of alienating the kids, you must make sure you are not doing any of the alienating tactics, so you do not lose your kids. Follow every rule in the divorce decree. Do not stop the children from seeing the other parent and do not talk badly about the other parent. Get Dr. Amy Baker’s Book on Co-parenting with a toxic ex, but start by watching my interview interview with her where she explains what you should be CERTAIN not to do. Dr. Jennifer Harmon is also doing great things on the Parental Alienation arena, and you can watch my interview with her here. If the narcissist is alienating you from the children, you must learn everything there is to learn to fight the battle for your kids.

Not a team sport: You are going to have to come to terms with the fact the co-parenting with a narcissist is not a team sport. The illusion of being able to do this in healthy ways is just going to lead to frustration and pain because you are expecting the impossible. Your divorce already caused a narcissistic injury, so in their minds getting even with you is just the new game. If you want to learn a new game, you pull out the rule book and learn the rules. I suggest Dr. Amy Baker’s Book on Co-parenting with your toxic ex to give you the rules of this new chapter of your life. With practice, you can empower yourself to be triggered less and to manage the day to day in healthier ways for you. The narcissist will never stop playing a game, so learn to manage them for your own salvation and for that of your children.

Beware of the nice: If the narcissist is acting uncharacteristically nice, they are planning something. You might want to believe that they are finally being the parent you were told they would be, but when they are nice, you must be very aware. This is usually a trap.

WHAT DO YOU DO IF YOU ARE CO-PARENTING WITH A NARCISSIST?

Never use your children as a pawn: Don’t ask them what happened at the narc’s house. Don’t ask about the new girlfriend or boyfriend. Do leave the door open if they ever want to ask you questions or talk about things. Turning the kids into the fact-finding spy, puts them into a position of picking sides and being in the middle. The narcissist will do this to them without question, so don’t be like them. It’s better for you to not know how the new girlfriend is being treated because it will always hurt you. If they have concerns, make sure they know they can always talk to you. I know it hurts to be replaced by someone else and to have them have fun with your child, but this is life after divorce. Be the best parent you can be and enjoy your time with them because they need balance and stability.

Be the rock: Be the steady parent; the one that disciplines and supports the kids, has house rules and tucks them in with a story at night. Teach them empathy and care for others by example and point out behaviors that are not acceptable. This should not be taught by accusing your ex of these behaviors, just by pointing out behaviors to watch out for in all people. Let the kids know they can always come to you and that everything they share will be kept secret. They must trust you with what they share. Don’t listen to the kids and then jump on the phone and start screaming at your ex. The kids will get in trouble next time they go over there. You have now broken their trust and you risk breaking the relationship forever. This is a doorway for the narc to show them how untrustworthy you are. Don’t be that parent.

Get the kids help: Seek out a professional therapist who counsels children, no matter how old they are so they can have a neutral person to confide in. If you are not familiar with ACEs, get familiar. ACEs stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences that can adversely affect the lives of children of divorced parents. This could mean that they hold the wounds and end up marrying their own narcissist one day. To learn more about ACEs I suggest you read – A Parents Guide to Understanding the Effects of Conflict and Divorce Joan McWilliams. To learn more quickly I suggest you watch this Ted Talk by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris

Set healthy boundaries: Setting boundaries was probably not something most victims of narcissistic abuse did when they were married. Usually, a narcissist invented boundary-breaking, and they never listen to their partners so most victims generally give up. Now the game is different, and you must learn healthy boundary-making skills to save you from sleepless nights and anxiety-filled days. Having a predefined parenting plan helps this tremendously, because it leaves very little wiggle room. Communication is usually the hardest part of dealing with your ex so set boundaries about where and when they can communicate with you. If you don’t like getting 100 texts a day, set the boundary that you will not answer texts, and everything must be in email. If pickup and drop off is a problem and you don’t want them in the house, set that boundary. If the parenting plan says you need 30 days for them to set a vacation and they are always breaking or bending that rule, set a boundary. Do not allow them to manipulate you into breaking this rule. If you give in once, they will continue to come back at you until they win. Stick to the guidelines and they can’t do anything about you not allowing the kids to go off to vacation. If they bought tickets to go to Disney already and didn’t notify you in writing within the time-frame, then they will learn a costly lesson in the rules of being a co-parent with you. I have a workshop on setting boundaries that will give you the tools to make this easier. The workshop is online and costs $15. It will give you peace and understanding of the process and how to stay firm.

Create a solid parenting plan: Many states here in the USA require parents to create a parenting plan. Mine with my child’s father was simply outlining who gets our son for holidays until he was 18. That’s it. Sadly, when you are with a narcissistic parent, every detail must be written into what I call an iron-clad parenting plan. You must plan for holidays and vacation time, but also consider what will happen if Father’s Day doesn’t fall on dad’s weekend. Plan it and decide if he gets that extra day or trades it for another day. School vacations evolve. When the kids are five, Mom can certainly whisk the kids off to Paris anytime, but not when the kids are older. As the children get older, school breaks are the only time kids can get away and this must be strictly enforced, or the child’s grades could be affected. Decision making is an often-forgotten piece of the parenting plan. Medical, financial and educational decisions can be assigned to one parent or may need to be mutually agreed upon. If the one parent holds the keys to the medical decisions, you may not have a choice to let your child see a therapist or have a needed surgery. Visitation does not mean that going to mommy’s for the weekend is like going on vacation. Children have activities, parties and friends that must be part of their lives. While the non-custodial parent often doesn’t want to share their limited time with the kids and their activities, this must be put in writing. If your child plays soccer or goes to a lesson every weekend, the narcissist is responsible to get them there, and bring them to their best friend’s birthday party.

Education and college must be planned out financially, but also who gets to choose where your kids will go. If you are financially responsible for half the tuition and your ex decides to send them to a $60,000 school, you are on the hook. I wish I could outline the thousands of ways you need to protect your kids with a parenting plan, but there is simply too much. My suggestion is to get the book ‘Parenting Plans for Families after Divorce’ by Joan McWilliams. Her work is amazing, and I hope to be interviewing her soon to share her knowledge with you, but for now, get the book.

Create a communication plan: In order for you to heal, you need to have as limited contact with your ex as possible so you can disengage from the craziness, the attacks, the lies and the drama. You get to make the rules for how you want them to communicate with you. Can they call you at 11pm? Text you 100 times in a day and get angry if you don’t reply instantly? Is the communication as it is today causing you anxiety? Then decide how and when you will take their communication. If you say no phone calls or texts and they do not comply, then block their number and send them an email telling them that you have blocked them and why. This email can be used against you if they decide to lay a complaint against you for blocking access to you. their phone. So, remember to put in writing before you cut them off that you do not want to get texts or calls at all hours and prefer e-mail communication (screenshot the calls, texts, and frequency and paste them into the email). This is the first step in setting communication boundaries. Keep everything as businesslike as possible.

If you are struggling with how to communicate, I strongly suggest you get Bill Eddy’s book called BIFF. In his book Bill Eddy explainsBIFF stands for Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm. This book will empower you to communicate with your ex-spouse and save you all the heartache of not understanding what to do. If it becomes completely unbearable to communicate with your ex, you can work with them or a judge to court order communication with one of the popular parent communication websites like TalkingParents.com or FamilyWizard.com. These platforms become a savior for parents who simply cannot communicate by the rules laid out by decree or request.

Communicate with your child’s school: Talk to teachers and other parents in order to let them be aware of the high-conflict situation and ask them to be on guard for bad behaviors, late pickups, and the children’s behavior in school. Make it clear that you want to be notified if the children’s school work is not turned in or if their grades decline. This action should never be taken in the form of calling your ex names or telling the world that they are a narcissist, but out of concern for your kids.

House rules: Define them and post them on the refrigerator. Discuss as a family that in your house your rules apply and teach them what the price is if they do not comply. Children will thrive with a set up like this because they need structure, and if they understand the rules and the penalty it makes it easier to discipline them. Follow through with the punishment if they break rules so they learn cause and effect of their own choices. They will say things like “at mommy’s house, we can eat ice cream for breakfast”, remind them that these are your rules, period. No explanation is needed.

Document everything: Keep it simple. Document inappropriate emails, texts, and arguments and record times and dates if they changed or canceled plans. If things are volatile check with your state recording laws and record them, remember that the narcissist could also be recording you, so be very aware of what you say. Everything can and will be used against you to take away your kids. Most times it’s best to stick with only written communication as to have a record of every conversation.

Professional help for the kids: Understand that in very high conflict situations, the courts can assign professional help like a Guardian or parent coordinator. These folks will represent the rights of a child. Ask your lawyer if this is needed and always put the needs of your child first.

Be calm: When around the narcissist, remember their goal will be to bait you and get you into arguments just to give them evidence that you are the crazy one. Grey rock is an effective way to be when you are with them. You can watch this How to Go Grey Rock video to learn more.

Expect to see your Ex at birthday parties, graduations, or school events, and be the grey-rock parent. Seeing them at an event is hard, but this is for the kids and you will need to be professionally indifferent to the fact that they are there.

Keep conversations only about the kids: This also goes for decisions that are needed for them. You must communicate with your ex about the kids, but any additional information you give them will only be used against you. No personal information, no struggles, and nothing about the kids that they do not NEED to legally know.

Learn to manage your expectations: Your narcissistic ex can never change. You can only change the way you react to the tricks that are pulled on you.

Parallel Parenting as an option:: In extreme cases where you cannot see eye to eye, you can parallel parent. While there are many aspects of parallel parenting, the main thing to understand is that you have rules in your house and the ex has rules in theirs. Parents do not engage unless making decisions for the child. Your job is to make your house safe and loving while still maintaining the normal guidelines we have for our kids. Rules and homework, chores and fun… To understand what parallel parenting is you can watch this video.

Identify your own triggers: This is important so you can create a plan for when the narcissist pulls out something that they know will trigger you. If you don’t understand your triggers, this make you more vulnerable to them being a surprise attack. Write them out if you can. By writing down your triggers, you can plan to not allow it to bother you. For example: when he shows up at the soccer game, what can you do to make that easier? Can you move to a different area? Can you surround yourself with a protective circle of parents that support you? You cannot stop their behaviors, but you can manage your own stress around these triggers, and you will be in a much better place.

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