Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

Co-Parenting with a Narcissist: How to Deal with An Uncooperative Co-Parent

Last Updated on April 24, 2022 by Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

Having a classic Narcissist for a partner is hard enough. But co-parenting with a Narcissist can be much tougher. The question is: How do you deal with that?

What is a Narcissist?

What is a narcissist? Some people believe that narcissists are a result of their upbringing. In some cases, they often had too much love. 

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What is a narcissist?

What a strange concept? But if your parents make you believe that you are untouchable, you will eventually accept this as accurate.

Narcissists often have an exaggerated sense of self-importance. They need excessive amounts of attention. Above all, they look for constant approval from others.

They are known to be arrogant, self-centered, and demanding. 

These are terrible traits for parenting as they often put themselves before their children. These traits mean they are likely to interfere with their child’s appointments and routine.

There are a few steps that can be taken as a positive parent to help with better co-parenting.

Understanding How Co-Parenting with a Narcissist Can Affect Your Child

Co-parenting with a narcissist can affect your child’s self-esteem. If one parent does not acknowledge the importance of their child, it can lead to emotional problems.

Some children develop depression, anxiety, and hostile behavior. 

It is advisable to be open with your child about what is happening. Talk to your child about their co-parent being a narcissist. Enable them to understand what that means and how it will affect them. 

Identifying Traits Of A Narcissistic Co-Parent

One of the biggest issues is gaslighting. Gaslighting is a form of brainwashing and is detrimental to emotional health.

Often narcissists will:

  • Manipulate you into believing that you are always wrong. They will make you feel like you are the cause of the problem
  • They will deny having said things if there is no proof of it
  • Or, they will use items that are close to you or special to you to hurt you
  • They slowly wear you down emotionally over time
  • Their words don’t meet their actions
  • Using positive reinforcement to make you feel confused
  • They seem to enjoy conflict and will try to create it

Above that, narcissists tend to use children to create problems. The most common scenarios are:

  • Sending messages to you through the children
  • Threatening to disappoint the children if you do not do what they want
  • Refusing to communicate with the children if you do not do what they want
  • They talk badly about you to the children

This behavior affects the children negatively. It can be damaging to the parent-child relationship further down the line. It is crucial to notice the signs and to protect your child.

Narcissistic Traits And Your Children

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High-functioning, achievement-obsessed

  • Children are only good enough when they are the best
  • Parents will only praise children when they win 

‘God Complex’

  • Having to worship parents leads to children having low self-esteem
  • Parents won’t allow their children to feel special or be celebrated. 
  • Children will doubt self-worth.
  • Children can grow out of this but will always have some feelings of not being good enough.

Covert

  • There is a favorite child that receives extra attention
  • The favorite child will be as an extension of themselves
  • The child will think they are better than everyone and will feel enraged and confused when they realize they are not
  • The rest of the siblings will feel ignored and insignificant

Overt, Devaluing

  • Children will never be good enough.
  • Narcissistic co-parent will push their feelings and lousy behavior onto the children.
  • Parents will tell their children things will be better if they were more this or more that.
  • Children will internalize this and always feel like they are not good enough.

Neglectful

  • They don’t care for the children at all
  • Leave children with others to care for them
  • Early on, children will realize they are alone with no support
  • They learn how to take care of themselves and their younger siblings
  • Children become resilient, resourceful, and highly independent

Malignant

  • Often physical abuse takes place.
  • The parent treats children as punching bags and as slaves. The parents treat them as tools without regard for their feelings. 

Action To Be Taken when Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

Don’t be afraid to take legal action. It helps to have a neutral party handle most of the co-parent battles. 

Make sure to have all decisions and agreements in writing and witnessed. This action will protect you in the long run.

Co-parenting with a narcissist will often have the narcissistic parent going back on their word. 

It helps to have someone who is acting in the best interest of the child. When that is the sole goal, it is easier to have emotion put aside. Emotion can cloud your judgment when making tough decisions.

Once boundaries are set, it is crucial to stick to them. You will need to learn to be firm. It can help empower you if everything is in writing.

Make sure that the visitation and other agreements are concise. These agreements will save you any trouble when you have to deal with any disruptions.

Being Empathetic For Your Child

Remember that your child comes first in this struggle no matter what is happening. They are going to be confused and hurt.

Never use your child as a weapon against the narcissistic co-parent. They are to be protected and informed on how to deal with what is going on.

Do not vent to your children about the other parent. Do not speak badly about their parent’s behavior. They will already be struggling emotionally. You do not want to cause further damage. 

They may also not see the narcissistic parent the way you do.

Try to be calm around the narcissistic co-parent. Try your best not to fight in front of them. You can use the ‘grey rock’ method. 

This is where you pretend to be as exciting and emotional as a grey rock. React like a grey rock would react.

Narcissists tend to respond to any emotional cues.

Try to imagine the worst scenario before a meeting. This will help you prepare for any situation that can arise.

Document Everything That Happens

If agreed times and dates are missed, that needs to be documented. 

Keep all correspondence via email or written messages. 

Any missed visitations or events that are missed, you need to keep track of this.  

If there are arguments between you and the narcissist co-parent or the child and the co-parent, you need to keep a record.

Any ‘witnesses’ that happen to be around can be asked for a statement. Doing this will help keep a broad and unbiased perspective of the narcissistic parent’s behavior. 

It can feel strange to ask people for help in this way, but you need to do everything to protect yourself and your children.

Parenting Style

Narcissistic co-parents are hypersensitive to criticism. They generally have low self-esteem. Their low self-esteem will affect how they will interact with their children.

Often there are negative experiences where the co-parent will take their feelings out on the children.

The most important thing is to keep your relationship with your children strong. It is essential to provide a safe space for them. 

They need to feel secure and loved. There must be stability at all times with you.

Make sure they get enough affection from you. It is essential to make sure your children know they are loved.

Another option to look at is parallel parenting. This strategy allows no contact between you and the narcissistic co-parent. 

You can divide the school and sports events between the two of you. Neither of you needs to attend your child’s events at the same time. 

You can arrange for neutral pick-up and drop-off spots. You can request that a neutral party be present when you do need to interact.

This plan will help to give you the peace of mind you need. Minimal interaction will allow you space to remain protected and eliminate the opportunity for verbal attacks.

When Is More Help Needed?

It is essential to check in with your children to find out what and how they are feeling. You should find out about their struggles.

That way, you can help them deal with emotions and get any necessary help they need.

It is good to know when further help is needed. Counseling can be helpful for you and your children.

You can see a licensed therapist to help both of you safely work through any issues.

You can look for support through your children’s school, church, pediatrician, or community.

Even if your children do not show any need for therapy, it can still be helpful. In the long run, the behavior of the narcissistic co-parent can cause a lot of damage. These issues might only present later in your children’s life. 

Co-Parenting with a Narcissist: Conclusion

Be respectful of your children’s relationship with their narcissistic parents. It is important to remember that your relationship with your partner is not necessarily what your child is experiencing.

Being open and honest will help your child to understand what is happening. Honesty will help prepare your children to prepare for situations that arise.

Allow your children into a space where they know that their parent is a narcissist. Help them to understand what that means. 

Parents need to empower their children with the necessary tools they need to look after themselves.

You need to make sure that you are safe and protected to act with your children’s best interests at heart. The best is to be there to support and love your child no matter what happens.

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