It can be extremely difficult to co-parent with someone who possesses narcissistic traits. To truly co-parent means that two parents are working together in the best interest of their children. This is not true with a narcissist. Instead, you must co-parent in spite of this person, focusing on protecting yourself and your children from the co-parent’s behaviors.
Protecting your children sometimes means keeping your co-parent in the dark. In a typical co-parenting situation, it is encouraged to document everything and keep both parents in the loop about the children they share. However, a person with narcissistic traits will take whatever ammo they can use to fuel their high conflict agenda.
We have provided a few examples of What Not To Share With Your Narcissistic Co-Parent. Although this is not an exhaustive list, it should serve as a guideline for how to protect your children from the narcissist’s behavior.
Don’t Share When:
1.Your Child Confides In You
When a child confides in their parent, there is an understanding of trust between parent and child. If your child is confiding in you regarding their feelings toward their other parent, it is important to keep these feelings between the two of you. Their other parent could use your child’s negative feelings as a weapon against them and make them pay for expressing these feelings about interactions with them.
A narcissistic person will do whatever they can to gain control. Anything you share about your child with a narcissist could eventually be used to manipulate them in the future, especially when they feel vulnerable or in need. Your child should be able to trust you enough to share their deepest feelings, otherwise, they might feel exposed which can result in acting out or showing unusual behaviors.
It is crucial that children have at least one parent protecting and prioritizing them. If not, this kind of treatment can have detrimental effects on their development, cutting their precious childhoods short.
2.Your Child Feels Neglected
A narcissistic person, by definition, will always put their own needs above others. This can even include their own children. Your narcissistic co-parent has a limited capacity for empathy, so they will rarely connect with and nurture the children you share together. It is important not to share these concerns with your co-parent. Doing so may provoke them, as they will take it as a personal attack. The best thing to do for your child in this situation is to compensate for their other parent’s neglect.
Narcissists rarely have emotional connections to their children, which can result in them feeling emotionally neglected. Make sure to reassure your child that they are loved and valued, even if you are their only parents telling them this.
Remember that narcissists thrive off of attention and emotional reactions. Do not give them this satisfaction. Confronting your co-parent for neglecting your child might cause them to lash out and take their anger out on your child. Sharing your thoughts about how their behavior is affecting your child will not only fall on deaf ears, they might actually enjoy the emotional rise they are getting out of you.
3.Your Child Is Mimicking Harmful Behaviors
Being raised by a narcissist can have long-lasting emotional and psychological effects on your child. An extremely difficult part about co-parenting with a narcissist is when your child begins to mimic their other parent’s harmful behaviors. Children learn by example, so when they see their parents behaving a certain way, they will often adopt some of these characteristics.
If you notice major behavioral changes in your child, it is important not to bring this to your co-parent’s attention. Keep in mind that a key aspect of narcissism is an inflated ego. If your co-parent is aware of their influence, they will get the satisfaction that their child has become a “mini-me” and may use this as a weapon against you, which can even result in parental alienation.
The most important thing you can do for your child is a good role model. Your child needs to see that they have one healthy parent who loves and cares about their well-being. Show them that although they cannot control their other parent’s unhealthy behavior, they can control their own. This also means never badmouthing your co-parenting in front of your child, even if they badmouth you. Doing so can put your child in a really uncomfortable situation where they will feel forced to choose sides. Rather than encourage this, just continue to be the reliable parent your child can count on. In time, they will be able to decide how much contact they would like to have with their narcissistic parent.
Remember that a narcissistic person will not change. However, for the sake of your children, try to keep things as conflict-free as possible. When you co-parent, the goal should be for your children to have a relationship with both of their parents. Using the measures above can make co-parenting with a narcissist much more manageable, which is beneficial for everyone involved.