Divorcing the narcissist is only half the battle, having a successful co-parenting relationship with your narcissistic ex can be challenging, to say the least. A narcissist is going to present some different challenges for both you and your children when going through this next stage of life, co-parenting.
The good part is, you have some control now! This is a time of healing for you and you need to ensure that you protect yourself from the emotions and conflicts that can occur when dealing with your ex.
The key to a successful co-parenting relationship with a narcissist is to limit opportunities for conflict and access to your emotions as much as possible. You also need to put protections in place for your children.
Below are 5 things you need to know if you are co-parenting with a narcissist:
1. Limit the mode of communication: The best way to interact with your narcissistic ex when communicating about the children is to limit the mode of communication. You can limit it to text messages or email, whichever works best for you. This prevents the ex from getting under your skin, picking fights, and it provides you time to decide how you are going to respond. It is also important to limit interactions to the children only. It also provides you an option of when you want to respond or read their message. I tend to not communicate except around visitation and while the kids are with him. Otherwise, I will wait and respond when I'm feeling strong and have had time to frame my answer to limit conflict.
2 Set clearly defined boundaries: There are going to be times when you will need to be in the physical presence of your ex: school performances, sporting events, etc. I prefer to stay on the opposite side of the room from him and have let him know not to approach me in a public place. This eliminates those uncomfortable moments and also keeps him from trying to strike up a conversation that might lead you back down the path of being controlled, an argument, or hurting your feelings once again.
For teacher meetings at school, I have requested we have separate parent/teacher conferences and the teachers are aware and very accommodating. Each parent can get on the teacher mailing list so each is "in the know" and are on the same page as to what is going on in the classroom during the week and for special announcements. Setting boundaries when it comes to being in their presence or when communicating will make co-parenting with a narcissist less stressful.
3. Use a mediator: When issues arise with the parenting plan and visitation, utilize a mediator to resolve those issues instead of trying to work it out without any help. Mediation will keep the conflicts from arising while negotiating what is best for the children.
4. Provide means of communication with the kids that don't involve you: My children are old enough that I have provided a cell phone that is used for their Father to contact them without my involvement. This phone also works great for them to be able to contact me when they want while they are on visitation. If your child is not enough for a cell phone of their own, you can get an inexpensive pre-paid one that you keep for them and hand to them when it rings or at the designated call time, or utilize a landline phone that you teach the children to answer to communicate with their Father.
5. Protect your children: The narcissist will gladly use his children to get to you and at some point may just neglect his children to serve his own self-interests in a new relationship. You need to be a rock for your children emotionally and protect them as much as you can. When things start to spiral out of control, be there for the children to heal their hearts and make them feel safe again.
Finding a therapist for the children as well as for yourself is a great way to process not only the emotions of the divorce but the emotions from the abuse of a narcissistic Father and abandonment when he decides to disappear from their lives.
While co-parenting with a narcissist can be a challenge, it can be done. It will certainly present a lot of challenges as you go through this co-parenting season in life. Your role will mean being the rock for your children - protect yourself from your ex and be ready to help your children deal with the emotions and possible abandonment of their Father.