Co-Parenting With a Narcissist

Posted by Erin Birt | Jun 02, 2023 | 0 Comments

Co-Parenting With a Narcissist

Getting a divorce and learning how to co-parent is difficult work. But what happens when the person you're trying to co-parent with is a narcissist? Chances are it will be just as difficult and unsuccessful as when you were still married.

The Merck Manual, a trusted resource for medical professionals, estimates that up to 6.2 percent of the general U.S. population has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), which is purported to be more common in men than women. There is also a much greater percentage of people who have not been diagnosed with the disorder but possess narcissistic traits that are equally daunting to deal with.

What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

The Mayo Clinic describes NPD as a mental health condition where a person has an unreasonably high sense of their importance. They want admiration and “lack the ability to understand or care about the feelings of others.”

Traits of a narcissist include:

  • Expectations of being admired as superior
  • Exaggerating achievements and successes
  • Taking advantage of others to get their way
  • Trouble handling criticism
  • Belittling others to raise themselves

Unfortunately, whether diagnosed or not, it is not unusual for narcissists to have relationship problems because they partake in gaslighting, enjoy eliciting negative emotions in others, and usually disrespect others' boundaries.

How to Create a Co-Parenting Plan With a Narcissist

The best co-parenting method is to put the needs of the children over those of the parents. Because it is difficult to parent with a narcissist who puts their needs first, co-parenting might not be in the best interest of your children and you. A co-parenting plan might be too frustrating and emotionally harmful. We have a few alternatives:

Parallel Parenting

Consider adopting a parallel parenting plan with strict boundaries, including how to use technology for communication. Parallel parenting is a co-parenting method where each parent follows their parenting approach while the children are under their supervision. Parents attend separate appointments and events, while communication happens through email, texts, and co-parenting apps. This type of co-parenting plan allows you to distance yourself from the narcissistic parent, thereby minimizing stress and frustration.

Parenting Coordination

When parents have difficulty communicating, a third party, such as a parenting coordinator, might be an effective way to resolve disputes and plan for the best way to raise your children moving into the future. A parenting coordinator (PC) is a professional who can lessen tension to help parents communicate better, and a PC is enabled to make decisions when parents continue to disagree. PCs are specially trained mediators or mental health professionals who work to encourage cooperation and respectful communication while looking out for the children's best interests.

Guardian Ad Litem

A guardian ad litem (GAL) is a neutral outside person appointed by the court. The guardian will get to know the parents, children, and the situation and then make recommendations to the court based on their findings. A guardian ad litem makes these recommendations based on the well-being or best interests of the children. They may also be asked by the court to monitor the case for a set amount of time afterward to ensure the parents comply with the court's decisions.

While parallel parenting allows individuals to parent according to their own beliefs and values, there are circumstances in which having a third party, such as a PC or GAL, is advantageous. When a child has special needs, whether psychiatric or medical, a third party can provide reassurance that those special needs are being met. The higher level of coordination needed to parent a special needs child through parallel parenting may not align with the higher level of supervision and management of medical care when communication between the two parents is minimal or only through electronics.

Tips & Resources from Birt Family Law

You cannot beat a narcissist at their own game. Here are some tips to help you cope:

  • Slow your reaction. If you respond impulsively because you are triggered, you'll just feed the fire.
  • Set clear boundaries and be clear about what will not be tolerated in parenting.
  • Document everything. It could help minimize fighting.
  • Stay focused on your children and continue to be a consistent, healthy parent.
  • Get help maintaining your well-being.

Birt Family Law has over 20 years of experience navigating divorces through the courts as well as through the use of a mediator. Our team's background in mental health and customer service means that we are there for you, not just legally, but to help see you through the difficulties of divorce so you can begin to thrive again.

We firmly believe that wellness and balance are key to getting through a divorce. Birt Law recommends creating healthy daily habits to help lessen stress and affirm a positive future. Maintaining wellness will help you make better decisions and be better able to help your children through this difficult time. Birt Law has resources and articles available to help you get started.

Self-care is not self-indulgent. Self-indulgence is a spontaneous impulse based on emotion without a long-term positive impact. Self-care is an intentional act with lasting benefits. Forbes describes in a recent article how self-care should be seen as a discipline, and rightly so.

To learn more about how Birt Family Law can help you through your difficult divorce, call us at (630) 891-2478. We're always happy to answer your questions or schedule a free consultation.

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About the Author

Erin Birt

Since 2003, Erin N. Birt, J.D., CADC has focused her practice on parenting time, divorce, mediation, and substance abuse issues. Ms. Birt's unique background in both family law and addictions counseling help her clients successfully navigate the complex issues of coparenting and divorce. Ms. Birt also devotes her time to presenting at continuing education seminars for attorneys, mediators, and counselors.


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