Are you co-parenting with a narcissist?

Most divorced co-parents understand that their differences rarely end with a signed agreement. Although parents may agree on the terms of their parenting plan, no legal agreement can ensure that two adults get along, especially when one of those people is a narcissist.

Co-parenting with a narcissist is challenging, but still possible. With strict boundaries and a comprehensive parenting agreement, you can build a strategy that will help you raise your children in a healthy and safe environment.

Guidelines for safe co-parenting

If your co-parent’s narcissism is negatively impacting your legal parenting arrangement, stay calm and focused. Narcissists will attempt to gaslight you and manipulate your emotions to exert their will over a situation. The following guidelines can help you maintain control:

  • Court services: You can secure helpful services from the local courts, including guardian ad litem who will make recommendations based on the “best interests of the child,” or hire a mediator to help negotiate new terms.
  • Set boundaries: Setting clear boundaries can limit your ex’s influence on your parenting decisions. For example, limiting communication to e-mail can give you time to draft coherent responses and record the interaction.
  • Do not forget the children: A narcissist wants attention, even at the cost of their children. Keep their wellbeing at the forefront and try to use empathy to understand how disagreements between their parents might negatively impact them.
  • Limit your emotions: Narcissists feed off attention. Allowing their arguments to get the better of you gives them exactly what they want. Keeping the wellbeing of your children at the forefront of your mind can help maintain focus.
  • Record everything: A divorce agreement is a legal document; if your ex violates that document, they violate the law. Record all conversations and try to limit communication to text and e-mail. Those transcripts will serve as evidence in any future legal conflicts.

Parents might also consider private or family counseling. Dealing with a narcissist is emotionally draining and can negatively impact both you and the children. A counselor can help work through related emotional issues.

If nothing works, consider legal action

Co-parenting with a narcissist will challenge your patience and composure, but as long as you abide by the rules in your parenting agreement, you have the law on your side. Bring your questions to a local attorney familiar with family conflict and divorce negotiations.