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Global Guide to Divorce
Jack Jack the Cat

Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

Narcissists lack empathy so this makes co-parenting more challenging. They do not have compassion, so only pretend to care for others, including family members. Their children become targets for their manipulation, since they are less likely to stand up to a parent. The world revolves around the narcissistic person and this can include contact schedules and activities.

Children are used as pawns during divorce to get a better financial gain or in retaliation against you. Several eminent psychologists insist that contact between children and a narcissistic parent should be supervised. Dr. Joseph Shannon of Ohio, USA   is an expert on personality disorders and does many conferences on this subject. He was adamant about the need to set up supervised visitation to protect the children. When I also asked if a narcissistic ex-spouse lets go of his ex-wife after divorce, he said “no.”

Throughout the UK, there are Children’s’ Contact Centres where the non-resident parent can spend time with their children in pleasant surroundings. They have trained volunteers who are in the centres to give any assistance, if needed. In one case, when the older son turned eighteen, he stopped visitation and the younger one refused to continue. The younger brother met with the mediator that was appointed in the parenting plan, who then arranged supervised visitation. A child may feel safer when contact is supervised and can begin to develop a better relationship with that parent. Or, like in this case, the supervisor verified the verbal and emotional abuse when reporting back to the mediator. The court terminated parental contact when the son absolutely refused to go.

Contact between children and a narcissistic parent can be more successful if shorter in duration and perhaps no overnights. If the activities are mutually satisfying, such as participating in a sport or engrossing hobby, then the time spent together can be more enjoyable. They may like going to movies and concerts, which require less interactions.

Another strategy for pleasant contact is when visitation takes place at a family member’s or friend’s house.  One narcissistic father with an alcohol problem, visits his young daughter at his own mother’s house. She spends one night a week there, often with cousins, and has dinner with dad. This arrangement is working out great and the narcissist is on his best behavior with his mum standing nearby.

Narcissistic Extension is when a parent tries to mold a child into someone whose achievements directly reflect back onto them. The parent expects to be praised regarding their offspring’s skills. The narcissistic parent sees the child as a part of themselves (extension).  A kid may be pushed into a sport that draws more attention and fame, than one that does not. One boy wanted to play baseball for his school’s team, but his father refused to give permission. Instead, the son was made to continue with martial arts that gave more recognition with publicized tournaments.

Some narcissistic mothers of youngsters in beauty pageants see their girls as extensions of them. They bask in the admiration that surround these awards. A danger of having a narcissistic parent that controls a child, is that this child may go on to repeat this pattern in future relationships.

Co-parenting with a clinically diagnosed narcissist is doable when one does not get caught in a power struggle. Make sure the kids have support, whether with a therapist, divorce coach or trusted family friend.  Keep monitoring the situation to confirm contact with this parent is going okay.

Originally  published in The Divorce Magazine

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