Co-Parenting with a Narcissist: Coping and Protecting Your Children

Co-parenting with a narcissist can be incredibly challenging. Narcissists can be self-centered, demanding, and often difficult to deal with. However, there are ways to co-parent with a narcissist. 

This post will discuss some tips for co-parenting with a narcissist. Of course, every situation is different, so what works for one person may not work for another. 

Understanding what a narcissist is and how they think

What is narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)?

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a mental condition in which people have “an inflated sense of self-importance, a need for excessive attention and admiration, and a lack of empathy.” As a result, people with NPD often believe they’re superior to others and can only associate with people they perceive as equals.

If you think your co-parent or Ex may be a narcissist, it’s helpful to understand how they think. Narcissists consider themselves the center of the universe and believe everyone revolves around them. They’re often very charming and charismatic but tend to be manipulative and controlling. They may try to control every aspect of your life, including who you spend time with and what you do.

Related: How to Know If You Are in a Toxic Relationship

Narcissists can be difficult to co-parent with because they’re often unwilling to compromise. They may also try using your children as pawns in their games. It’s important to remember that narcissists are often very good at hiding their true colors, so don’t be fooled by their charm.

How can you tell if your Ex or Co-parent has NPD?

Some common signs that your co-parent or Ex may have narcissistic personality disorder include:

  • they’re always trying to one-up you
  • they never apologize
  • they constantly belittle or criticize you
  • they’re always the center of attention
  • they often talk about themselves in grandiose terms
  • they need constant validation and praise
  • they have a sense of entitlement
  • they’re always trying to control everything

What should you do if you believe you’re co-parenting with a narcissist?

If you think your co-parent or Ex may have NPD, there are some things you can do to protect yourself and your children. First, try to build a support system of friends or family members on who you can rely. Your support system can provide a listening ear and offer helpful advice.

You can do some things to make co-parenting with a narcissist easier. 

Set boundaries with the narcissist to protect yourself and your children

It’s also important to set boundaries with a narcissist. They’ll often try to control every aspect of your life, but you must assert yourself. Let them know what you will and won’t tolerate from them. For example, you might say something like, “I’m not going to discuss this issue with you anymore. If you want to talk about it, you can speak to my lawyer.” 

Related: How to Co-Parent with Grace

Communicate effectively with the narcissist to ensure your children’s well-being

Narcissists are often very good at manipulating people. They may try to use your children as pawns in their games. It’s good to be aware of this and to communicate effectively with the narcissist. Try to stay calm and focused when you’re talking to them. Avoid getting drawn into arguments or fights. As much as possible, keep conversations short and to the point or insist all communication be in writing.

It’s also important to remember that narcissists often have a very different reality than others. They may believe they’re always right, even when they’re not. It’s important not to get drawn into their distorted view of reality. Stick to the facts and avoid getting emotional.

Avoid arguing with them. Narcissists love to argue and will often try to goad you into one. They’ll also use any opportunity to put you down or make you look bad. If you must argue with them, try to do it calmly and rationally. 

Don’t take things personally 

Narcissists often say hurtful things to people. They may make you feel bad about yourself or put you down. It’s essential not to take these things personally. Remember that it’s not about you. It’s about them.

Try to be calm and level-headed when dealing with a narcissist. They often try to provoke an emotional reaction from you, but if you stay calm, it’ll throw them off balance. Narcissists thrive on drama, so the more you can avoid it, the better.

Get Support

Identify people in your life who can provide a listening ear and offer helpful suggestions. Co-parenting with a narcissist can be very lonely and isolating. Having people in your life who emphasize what you’re going through and can offer support is vital. These could be friends, family members, or professionals. A mental health professional can provide the resources you need to deal with your co-parenting struggles. 

How to protect your kids

Narcissists are often very good at concealing their true selves. They may be charming and charismatic, making them seem like great parents. However, their Narcissistic Personality Disorder can often have a negative impact on their children. As much as possible, focus on your children’s needs and do what’s best for them, even if it means making sacrifices yourself.

What are the signs that co-parenting with a narcissist is harming your children?

There are some signs that co-parenting with a narcissist is harming your children. These include:

  • Your child is always anxious or fearful around the narcissistic parent.
  • Your child consistently asks you to stay with them when visiting the other parent.
  • Your child refuses to see the other parent altogether.
  • Your child is acting out in school or at home.
  • Your child seems withdrawn and has lost interest in activities they used to enjoy.

If you see any of these signs, consider seeking professional help. A mental health professional can provide your children with the resources needed to deal with a narcissistic parent.

How can you protect your children from the damaging effects of being raised by a narcissistic parent?

You can do some things to protect your children from the damaging effects of being raised by a narcissistic parent. These include:

  • Keep communication open with your children. Let your kids know that they can come to you with anything that’s going on in their lives. 
  • Try not to bad-mouth their parent. Although you may be extremely frustrated and want your child to see the truth, negative talk about their other parent is detrimental to their self-identity. Take the high road. 
  • Be there for them emotionally. Show them that you love and support them unconditionally.
  • Help them develop a strong sense of self. Praise them for their accomplishments.
  • Teach them how to deal with difficult emotions. Help them understand and manage their feelings so they don’t internalize the narcissist’s toxic behavior.
  • Seek professional help if needed. A therapist can give your children the tools they need to deal with a narcissistic parent.

Going forward

Co-parenting with a narcissist can sometimes feel impossible, but protecting your children and providing a healthy relationship with them is possible. By setting boundaries and limits, being consistent, and keeping communication open, you can help your children cope with their narcissistic parent and maintain a positive relationship. If you are experiencing difficulty co-parenting with a narcissist, please reach out for help. There are many resources available to support you in this challenging process.

Co-Parenting with a Narcissist: Coping and Protecting Your Children

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