Yes! You can!
Narcissists are notorious for not cooperating but they don’t stop there. They wreak havoc! How do you parent with somebody who is dead set on sabotaging the entire family (themselves included) to “win”? It often feels impossible even to those who’ve been doing it for years. Any small step is progress and even though it may feel impossible, you’re doing the impossible. Here are some tips to keep in mind.
Keep your focus on the children’s well-being.
This may seem like a “dah” statement but it’s easy to forget when a narcissist is either pretending to be your friend, or smearing you to the world. That’s their game. Let go of ideas of revenge. Kids often get lost in this drama. Stay out of the drama and focus on getting the kids through the situation with healthy self talk and mental grit.
As soon as possible, get your kids and yourself into regular therapy.
Children are not resilient. The damage becomes apparent when they’ve grown. Start the healing in therapy now and commit to attendance into adulthood. Chose a therapist who understands trauma, signs of abuse, alienation and their role as a mandatory reporter. Be sure they are prepared to participate in court. A report of abuse from a therapist holds more weight in court. Kids will be more open with a therapist who is not associating with the narc. Any court ordered agreement should mandate therapy for the kids. Vet any proposed therapists the narc introduces and participate. Keep your children’s therapist informed of any issues in school and sign all necessary releases of information.
Your mental health has also likely been impacted by narcissistic abuse. Make sure you have your own therapist. Be sure to clearly state with court officials that you are receiving treatment for trauma. A narc. will likely try to spin your therapy visits as evidence you’re mentally unfit and need treatment.
Understand that you will not be able to co-parent with a narcissist.
Your goal is to parallel parent. As with the therapist, a parent who is completely separate from the narcissist parent is a safe parent for the kids. Chances are you were the primary parent before the divorce and you will continue to play that role but in a fraction of the time. Be sure that on your placement time, you give your children lots of positive attention. When they report abusive behaviors, document it but respond with empathy; “I bet that hurt your feelings.” If you are in the divorce process, start thinking of orders that would protect you from being held responsible or blamed for anything that goes on in the narc’s home. Also talk to your lawyer about what you can add to your agreement so conflict can be decided for you once the divorce is final to keep you out of the court room.
Communication with a narc is difficult and cooperation is rare and suspect.
The courts will likely decide for you that there must be some communication on behalf of the kids. If you’re in the process of divorcing, think about what boundaries you need in your final orders. Grey Rock communication has rules that help you say what you need to say without leaving vulnerabilities or giving away too much. This doesn’t guarantee a peaceful response back however. But it’s important to remember to stick to only “I” statements. Write as if you’re a robot. Use as few words as possible. Avoid repeating yourself or explaining yourself. Always communicate in writing. Ignore meaningless or provoking texts and ignore all calls. If it’s important, the narc can leave a message for you to listen to ASAP and save if needed. Using a platform like Our Family Wizard means court officials can monitor your communications.
Remember to respond but never react. It helps to write an initial reaction version for yourself, save it in a file just for you, then walk away. When you’re ready, write just 1 or 2 sentences in reply and hit send. Always respond to accusations. Avoid explanations; that’s for court. What you need to say is simply “You know that’s not true.” or “I will not engage with somebody who is misrepresenting facts.”
Parenting with a narc means you’re the only responsible adult in the situation.
You are responsible not only for the childrens’ well-being but often making up for sabotage and mind games while also likely being subjected to further abuse of your own. You cannot possibly do all this without first taking care of yourself. Please be sure you’re getting respite and relaxation. Schedule in some fun so you have something to look forward to. Also practice having fun impulsively. Be silly. Make the most of your time away from the kids and focus on them when they’re with you. Practice positive self talk. Say it out loud for your kids to hear. Nurture your inner child. Work through your emotions rather than seeking relief from outside sources like alcohol or dating. Give yourself time to understand what you’ve been through.
Progress in your recovery is slow and very painful. It often feels like a slide into an anguishing failure the likes of which nobody has ever known before. Growth hurts. Remember that and hold on tight to that. Feelings are temporary. You have to fight for you so you can pull your kids out of the muck.
You cannot do this alone.
A baby who is not picked up and held will die, even if they’re kept warm, fed and clean. Humans need each other. Get support. Therapy is good but oftentimes you find a person who’s studied domestic abuse but still doesn’t “get it”. Join a support group. Learn from people who’ve been through the fog and found the way out. Learn from adults who grew up with a narc parent. What is their advice? Find support groups and therapy for your kids. Keep your kids in social activities as much as possible. Attend public events. Host friends, neighbors and family. Surround your family with positive and mentally strong role models. Use your community resources.
I encourage you to look into any keywords in this article that were new to you. There are endless tips and resources out there just on the internet alone. This article is just scratching the surface. Just remember that you got out. The world is now waiting for you to decide what’s yours. What are you going to do with your future? What do you want your life to mean? Life will teach your kids pain. You need to teach them to navigate out of it. Whatever you do, your kids will follow and support you. They also want you to be happy and healthy.