Parenting Strategies When Divorcing A Narcissist
Are you divorcing a narcissist co-parent and wondering how you’ll survive till the kids leave home? Dealing with a high-conflict ex when it comes to the kids is difficult. But don’t despair! Here are some parenting strategies to help you navigate the challenges ahead, and regain your peace of mind.
Practice radical acceptance. Co-parenting with a narcissist is unfair. Your ex is fundamentally incapable of compromise, or putting the children first. Narcissists behave this way because of their underlying personality structure: they’re rigid, emotionally reactive, lack empathy, and feel superior. They are not ever going to change. Hoping, or trying to get a narcissist to be different, will just make you more frustrated than you already are. Practicing radical acceptance – accepting circumstances as they are, not how you’d like them to be – will bring you clarity. When you stop wasting your energy being angry at things you can’t change, you’ll be better able to cope with the situation at hand.
Practice effective communication. Does your narcissist ex assault you with vitriolic emails and texts? Responding with equal intensity will just create more drama. Remember that the purpose of communication is to exchange information, not to prove a point or put your ex in their place. When writing to your former spouse, be as brief as possible, focus on logistics, keep a diplomatic tone, and don’t get drawn into debates.
Here’s something to put on a sticky note somewhere where you’ll see it in the heat of the moment: Stick to the facts, stay neutral, keep it brief — and don’t take the bait!
Respect boundaries – theirs and yours. If your ex is a less-than-stellar parent, you may be tempted to tell them how to be better. But trying to get them to change how they interact with your kids will only cause them to dig in their heels and tell you you’re crazy. Remember, nothing you do or say will turn your narcissist ex into an empathetic human being. The very hallmark of someone with narcissistic personality disorder is that they don’t listen to criticism, however constructive or empathetically worded.
On the other hand, if your ex is telling you how to run your household, thank them for their advice and tell them you’ve got the job covered.
Utilize parallel parenting. If you and your narcissist ex can’t agree on anything, and communicating just seems to generate more conflict, co-parenting may not be a realistic goal. Instead, try parallel parenting. This means that you stop trying to coordinate house rules, throw birthday parties together, or agree on parenting styles. While this “you do you” approach to co-parenting isn’t ideal, it will limit your interactions with your ex and decrease conflict.
Co-parenting will be more difficult if you react emotionally to your ex, or marinate in a vat of despair over the fact that you’re stuck with them. So practice good self-care (eat properly and get enough sleep) and use coping tools such as mindfulness, exercise, therapy, and hobbies to regulate your nervous system. You’ll find it easier to psychologically disengage from your narcissist co-parent when you’re able to manage your emotions.
The key to co-parenting with a narcissist is to minimize opportunities for conflict and watching out for signs of parental alienation. Utilizing these strategies won’t change your ex, but it will make life more manageable for you and your children.
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