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.
Dealing with a worldwide medical pandemic and personally trying to stay alive and healthy is mentally changeling, but for parents who are divorced or have separate custody agreements and co- parent, it can be a disaster for the entire family. Hopefully, this Coronavirus Pandemic will be a short-lived life-threatening situation, but how the Co-parents cope with the problem could deeply impact their children’s emotional life.
In Texas, on March 13, 2020, the Texas Supreme Court issued an emergency order that divorced /single parents should go by the originally published school and visitation schedule in their current decree. Since the last life-threatening pandemic in the United State was the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918, most divorce/ single parent agreements do not include a pandemic clause!
Do not be one of those parents who decides that they “are the decision maker” and drives away with the kids for an extended vacation to Grandma’s in Florida without telling the other parent. Or deciding that the family circle of trust does not include their Other Parent and refuses visitation or joint decision making. These hasty, irrational decisions may seem reasonable in this time of national panic but consider the legal ramifications of violating an order. Since all courts, in Texas, are now closed except for emergency litigation matters only, when the courts are fully operational again and the medical danger has passed, how will a violation of your current decree look to the Judge? Judges always look to the needs of the child versus the unreasonable expectations of the parent. There will be serious ramifications against the violating parent.
Let’s look at some ideas on how co-parenting during this pandemic season can work the best for all family members and by joint agreement will save your both money that would normally go to legal fees.
Just remember that as co-parents your children are most important. Your child has been told that they can’t see their grandparents because of their age and if infected by the coronavirus, may die. No school, no playing of sports, or playing with friends since they may be infected with a deadly virus and become very ill. Decide to cooperate as responsible co-parents to navigate the child to the new changes in their daily routines without a lot of stress and anxiety on the child. By keeping the child calm and showing “a united family circle” the child will know that Mom and Dad are there for him/her.
Some areas of agreement should be that the child will have regular email, phone calls, FaceTime, Zoom visits, and texting with the other parent. The child needs to know that both parents are safe and interested in their wellbeing. Regular visitations times must be made available for the child to see each parent. Remember the child’s core circle of trust are his/her parents and siblings.
Another very serious matter is the decision of what will happen to the child if one parent becomes ill and cannot care for the child. The joint decision must be made by both parents and must ultimately be in the best interest for the child.
Custody disputes and circumstances that have totally changed in the last month. Just remember, co-parent cooperation is the best choice. There is no doubt that judges will be happy to hear that parents have worked together to meet their child’s best interest, by taking steps to protect the child’s health and safety.
This is a time for mutual give and take from both parents. No one is always right nor always wrong. In this upside crazy pandemic world, jointly trying to navigate your family to a better place will have its own rewards.
If, however, one parent unilaterally refuses to make fair agreements for the children or violates your custody orders, avoid retaliation and follow your decree orders faithfully. This Pandemic will pass, and most Judges will not treat lightly intense misconduct when the courts reopen.
Mark A. Nacol
The Nacol Law Firm P.C.
If only divorced parents could mutually agree on meaningful possession schedules while co-parenting their kids! But since many cannot or will not, the Texas Courts generally use a One-Size-Fits-All Standard Possession order for all children over three years of age. The Texas Legislature over time has expanded the schedule to make access a little more flexible. Does this always squarely meet or suit the needs of a child and her/his relationship with both parents?
The Section 153.001 of the Texas Family Code is the State’s policy on possession schedules and its formation:
Assure that children will have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interests of their child;
Provide a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment for the child;
Encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising their child after the parents have separated or dissolved the marriage.
The Texas Family Code, section 153.002 also states that “the best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship, possession of, and access of the child”. Because of this the Texas Courts are given wide range in determining a child’s best interest in possession schedules.
What about fair and equal Parent Possession Schedules? This is easier desired than accomplished! In E. Mavis Hetherington’s book, For Better or for Worse, Three types of co-parenting relationships are identified:
Conflicted: Parents have frequent conflict, communicate badly, and have difficulty disengaging emotionally from the marriage (20-25%)
Parallel: Parents who emotionally disengage from each other, with little communication and who usually do not coordinate child-related issues between themselves although conflict is minimal. (Over 50%)
Cooperative: Parents who work together to actively plan their children’s lives and support each other. They work toward conflict free possession schedules in a nurturing parenting situation. (25%-30%)
Despite many separation and divorce related conflicts among parents, the main beneficial recipients of shared parenting are the children. When both parents are positively engaged in the parent-child relationship, probabilities are much higher for positive adjustment, better academic achievement and positive mental development of a child.
In Johnston & Campbell’s book, Impasses of Divorce, their findings support that the majority of parents substantially reduce their pre marital conflict within 2-3 years after divorce. Regrettably, 8%-20% of parents remain in a state of chronic high conflict!
How can Parents promote or enhance shared parenting in possession schedules?
Many parents will usually find a way or the mechanism to eventually work together for the benefit of the child, no matter how contentious the divorce. Even if shared parenting is not possible, parallel co-parenting reducing conflict may be acceptable. But if the parental conflict is high, try to use and enforce a possession schedule that limits parent contact during possession exchanges of the child and accordingly reduce conflict opportunity.
Parents: Leave your conflicts at home. You are divorced! Concentrate on what is best for your child. You are the lifetime primary example for your child on how families communicate. Be mature and responsible and show your child that no matter what has occurred in the past, and regardless of fault, your joint goal is an emotionally healthy child over the long haul.
Co-parenting with an ex-spouse or partner gives children stability and fosters similar rules, discipline and rewards between households. It promotes a child’s ability to more effectively and peacefully solve problems and establishes a life pattern children can carry into the future.
Effective co-parenting means that your own emotions – anger, resentment or hurt – must take back seat to the needs of your children. Setting aside these feelings may be the hardest obstacle to overcome after a divorce. It is important that you remember, co-parenting is not about your feelings, or those of your ex-spouse, but rather about your children’s future happiness and stability.
The following are useful tips to assist you with co-parenting in the future.
- Do not talk negatively, or allow others to talk negatively, about the other parent, their family and friends or their home in hearing range of the child.
- Do not question the children about the other parent or the activities of the other parent regarding their personal lives. In simple terms, do not use the child to spy on the other parent.
- Do not argue or have heated discussions with the other parent when the children are present or during an exchange.
- Do not make promises to the children to try and win them over at the expense of the other parent.
- Communicate with the other parent and make similar rules in reference to discipline, bedtime routines, sleeping arrangements, and schedules. Appropriate discipline should be exercised by mutually agreed of both parents.
- At all times, the decision made by the parents should be for the child’s psychological, spiritual, and physical well-being and safety.
- Visitation arrangements should be made and confirmed beforehand between the parents without involving the child in order to avoid any false hopes, disappointments or resentments toward the other parent.
- Notify the other parent in a timely manner of the need to deviate from the order, including cancelling visits, rescheduling appointments, and promptness.
- Do not schedule activities for the child during the other parent’s period of possession without the other parent’s consent. However, both parents should work together to allow the child to be involved in extracurricular activities.
- Inform the other parent of any scholastic, medical, psychiatric, or extracurricular activity or appointments of the child.
- Keep the other parent informed at all times of your address and telephone number. If you are out of town with the child, provide the other parent the address and phone number where your children may be reached in case of an emergency.
- Refer to the other parent as the child’s mother or father in conversation, rather than using the parents first or last name.
- Do not bring the child into adult issues and adult conversations about custody, the court, or about the other party.
- Do not ask the child where they want to live.
- Do not attempt to alienate the other parent from the child’s life.
- Do not allow stepparents or others to negatively alter or modify your relationship with the other parent.
- Do not use phrases that draw the children into your issues or make them feel guilty about time spent with their other parent. For example, rather than saying, “I miss you,” say “I Love You.”
As you begin to co-parent, you and your ex are bound, on occasion, to disagree. It isn’t necessary to meet in person—speaking over the phone or exchanging emails is fine for the majority of conversations. The goal is conflict-free communication, so see which type of contact works best for you. Keep the conversations kid-based.
Remember, respect can go a long way, keep talking, don’t sweat the small stuff, and be willing to compromise.