You are finally divorced from your Narcissistic Spouse! Now you are embarking on your new family situation with your Narcissist Ex: Co- Parenting! You are probably wondering how you became the lucky person who gets to experience this mind-altering situation along with other people you love the most: your children!
Let’s review what is Narcissistic Personality Disorder or ‘NPD”? It is a mental disorder where the person has a very transparent and superficial inflated self-esteem and neurotic needs for admiration and special treatment from other people. Typical arrogant behavior and lack of empathy for other people causes many problems in all emotional areas of their lives and relationships. Narcissists are usually very aggressive with impulsive tendencies, dangerous lifestyles involving cockiness, selfishness, manipulation and power motives. These individuals may appear as very exciting personalities at first meeting, but at the end of the day are unfulfilling and destructive. This false sense of entitlement produces a feeling that causes them to punish those who do not provide their required respect, admiration, or attention.
One of the biggest personal disappointments in Co-Parenting with your Narcissistic Ex is that often you are as unsuccessful as you were in marriage with the ex-spouse.
Children cannot and do not offer the continuous positive feedback narcissist parents crave and the parent will often react in one of two ways. W. Keith Campbell, an expert on narcissism and professor of psychology at The University of Georgia, offers that “some lose interest in their children entirely and look for other sources of validation”. “Others view their children as a reflection of themselves and become hyper-involved and controlling. Disconnection is the key, even an overly narcissistic parent is emotionally detached and lacks warmth.”
Eminent psychologist E. Mavis Hetherington In her landmark book, For Better or For Worse, highlights the results of her study of 1,400 families and the importance of examining the type of conflict children experience. She notes high conflict that involves the child is physically violence, threatening or abusive conduct and conflict in which the child feels caught in the middle, causing the most adverse consequences for children. These effects include anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
Some Strategies when dealing with Co-Parenting with your Narcissist Ex
- Limit your contact with your Ex. Contact should only involve information or issues concerning your children. Email or Text as much as possible. When you have the child, make the rule, “Unless an emergency, no contact will be made verbally until the child goes with the other parent. Try not to talk directly to the other parent when the children are present.
- Don’t Respond immediately or to everything (Hold that trigger response when children are present!) Also commit to a 24-hour turn around on all communications to and from your Ex!
- Make sure that you have a structured parenting plan in place that is very specific concerning schedules of visitation, holidays and vacations to help to minimize conflict. Also, if necessary, secure the help of professional counselors, lawyers, or therapists who can help the children and yourself to cope with the Narcissist Parent.
- Control your behavior and your triggers! Your ex-spouse knows you very well and knows how to press a trigger to make you look like the “Crazy “parent. This situation was continuous during the marriage and has continued in your Co-Parenting period. You are the adult and your children are watching your behavior concerning how they react to their other parent.
- Be the PARENTAL ROLE MODEL for your children. Show your children through your actions that you only have their best interest as your top priority. Control your behavior toward your narcissist ex and never bad mouth the other parent in front of the children.
- Do not tolerate abusive/demeaning behavior from your Ex to either you or your children. You must be the “adult” and protect your children. If your children are afraid to go visit this parent or after a visit, the kids come back with bruises, breaks or a more serious medical problem, get professional help to stop this type of abuse. If you truly feel that this narcissist parent is abusing the child, do not continue to send the child back to this parent. Contact an attorney who can help you to keep your child safe.
- Last by not least do not care what other people think! This is your life and you are the only parent who can control and protect your child against the Narcissist Parent. Life is hard and people are not perfect. When your children grow up and are responsible parents, this will be your award for being there to care and protect them from parental harm.
The Nacol Law Firm P.C.
Thirty seven percent of families in the United States are blended families. Sixty percent of second marriages end in divorce. A biological parent has his hands full, but as most step-parents will tell you, their job is even more complicated.
Following a divorce, it is not uncommon for a new step-parent to become the target of unprovoked spite or anger. In many cases, the previous-spouse harbors unfounded fears that their child will look to a new step-parent as a mother or father replacement figure. This can engender resentment to what may already be an uncomfortable situation between parties. Regretfully, these issues often escalate very quickly. Such resentments place the children squarely in the middle of a bitter fight between the people they love the most and are not healthy for anyone involved. The pain of conflicting loyalties to each parent and a child’s feeling of being “caught in the middle” of such disputes exacts an enormous emotional toll on a child. When a parent is in a rage, it is not uncommon for a child to withdraw. The child’s behavior towards the non-primary parent may abruptly change. This change in behavior may have more to do with keeping the primary parent happy than it does with how they really feel about the non-primary parent or step-parent. It is essential that you make it clear to your child that you love them and will always be there for them, regardless of the emotional or less than rosy current circumstances.
It is crucial to a child’s self-esteem and emotional growth that parents avoid putting children in the middle of such disputes. This can be incredibly difficult, however, when a selfish or manipulative parent does not think twice about wrongfully placing his or her child in the middle of conflict. Children are very perceptive and as they grow older they will ultimately realize when a parent has lied to them and used them for their own emotional or financial gain. Though they may temporarily identify with the aggressors, in time they will deeply resent the parent who has manipulated them.
Regardless of the circumstances, it is critical that biological parents avoid arguments or conflicts in the presence of the children. Such conduct is conducive to parental alienation goals of the misguided previous spouse. If the child sees that you maintain a calm and collected demeanor, it gives them reason to pause and feel safe.
If a previous spouse is making statements to the child regarding issues that should only be discussed between adults, tell the child that such discussions are inappropriate and you will take them up with the other parent at another time.
It is ok to tell your child “I am sorry,” if they are upset, even if you are not the parent upsetting them. This validates that they are hurting and relieves any false guilt they may have over things that are being said and done when you are not present. It is sometimes helpful to use everyday situations to explain conflict to your child. As an example, when dealing with conflict explain that “brothers and sisters fight, but they still love each other. Families have to work through conflict in order to stay together. I would not leave you if you made a mistake, I would not want you to leave me.” Such statements reinforces that reasonable conflict is ok and assures the child that you will remain a constant force in their life regardless of the situation.
If you feel that the conflict has escalated to a point of becoming emotionally abusive and/or destructive to the child, consult a Family Law / divorce attorney. It may be in the best interest of the child that he or she be removed from the primary parent and placed with the non-primary parent so that he or she is allowed to love all parental figures, parents and step-parents alike, unconditionally.
Divorce, in many cases, has a life-altering impact on a child’s development and well-being. Given that one out of every two marriages ends in divorce, thousands of children are impacted each year. Divorce places enormous stress on a child trying to adjust to new feelings and rapidly changing situations in their lives. The resulting instability often leads to resentment towards the child’s parents and a difficulty acclimating to all the abrupt and immediate changes in a child’s life.
Children perceive divorce as a very traumatic event and are very concerned about their security. Many children internalize the dissolution and blame themselves for the breakup. They are scared that both parents may leave them.
Some very disturbing research on children and divorce has just been released by the Census Bureau Study, “The Marital Events of Americans: 2009”.
*1.5% of US children live in the home of a parent who divorced in the last year. The average age of the child is 9.8 yrs. old and the male/female ration is 1:1.
*64% of the children were White, non- Hispanic children, with the largest percentage living in the South (41%).
*Children living with a divorced parent are likely to be in a household below the poverty level (28%) and more likely to be living in a rented home (53%).
*Most children live in a mother headed households (73%). Because mothers have lower earning potential in the labor force, the family often lives below the poverty level.
*These children of divorce are often living with their parents’ unmarried partner (13%). Only 5% of the children are living in a household with a married couple.
Children of divorce often suffer from anxiety, depression and reduced self-esteem issues. Robert Hughes, associate professor in the Dept. of Human Development and Family Science, Ohio State University, found that children from divorce are more aggressive and more likely to get in to trouble with school authorities or police during adolescence. Also children from divorce are more vulnerable to becoming a victim of violence or become a perpetrator of violent acts on themselves and or others.
If you are considering divorce, carefully consider the impact on your children. To help children through this difficult time, parents must realize and accept that they are responsible for this situation and that their children often suffer as a result of the parent’s decision.
Parents should be very sensitive to the child’s emotional needs to ensure the best possible adjustment of his or her mental, physical, spiritual well-being towards a healthy, responsible adult. Remember! Your child is the “Innocent Bystander.”
Seek professional help if you child is struggling with the changes in his or her life. Your attorney knows a resource that may be available to address your child’s pressing needs.