Setting Boundaries When Co-Parenting With A Narcissist [HELPFUL TIPS]

Setting firm boundaries when co-parenting with a narcissist can be done by having a detailed custody agreement, ensuring that conversation is kept to the bare minimum by using the grey rock method, and not allowing the other parent to bulldoze and manipulate the child.

Parenting isn’t a walk in the park. What makes it even harder is co-parenting with a narcissist. Raising children alongside a narcissist may be challenging, but establishing clear boundaries with them can give you some peace of mind, protect your child and make managing the co-parenting easier.

Finding a way to work together as co-parents will be one of the biggest challenges you’ll face if you are doing it with an ex who is a narcissist. However, there are strategies for co-parenting with a narcissist.

Silhoutte of man using other person as a bridge while holding crown, symbolizing boundaries with narcissistic people

Related Reading: Boundaries Co-Parenting with Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder

Put The Children First When Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

When it comes to co-parenting with narcissistic individuals, it seems impossible because they are commonly not cooperative. They will do everything they can to use the child to trigger or affect you.

They genuinely do not care (or even notice) about the effect of their actions on your feelings or those of your children. What is instinctively natural does not work when co-parenting with a narcissist.

Lecturing, monitoring, or prescribing to a narcissist will not make them better parents, it will not make them reconsider their stance, and it will not meaningfully change the way they act.

Quite the opposite, as it often makes them want to act up against you and the child. The connection between a narcissistic individual and their offspring is typically weak. Children may feel emotionally abandoned and mistreated by this type of parent due to this and the fact that they prioritize their needs over those of their kids.

You must therefore make up for the narcissistic parent. Make sure to express your love for your kid regularly. Additionally, give your child(ren) lots of hugs, because physical contact is crucial for their growth. Be present for your child’s feelings and create space and time for emotional dialogues. Work on developing emotional identification

Give honesty as a present to your kids. Talk openly, gently, and factually with your kids about the reality of their situation and the limitations of the narcissistic co-parent (but avoid bad-mouthing, stick to the facts). Avoid engaging in the game of pretending everything is normal. Don’t minimize the reality that the parent is poisonous by making your kids feel cognitively dissonant or by pretending the child is overreacting.

Set a good example; keeping your own calm and sanity when interacting with the co-parent will serve as an example for your children on how to avoid the narcissist’s web of ruin. Demonstrate empathy and self-compassion. When around the narcissist, teach your children to observe rather than take in.

Show strength and assurance. In whatever you do, ensure that you put your child first. Put yourself in your child’s position and react to circumstances by prioritizing their feelings. Even if it can be difficult, try to keep your child in mind throughout the co-parenting drama.

Your child should be free to express their feelings to you, so encourage them to do so. Be aware of the emotional harm caused by the narcissism of the other parent to your child(ren), and create plans to stop it before it happens or deal with it when it does.

Should You Accept You Cannot Change a Narcissist Person?

To get started on a healthy track for you and your child(ren), accepting the co-parenting situation you happen to find yourself in is imperative. You’re not dealing with a normal person, and the normal rules of engagement don’t apply.

The trick is to stop expecting that person to do the right thing or think they are ever going to make co-parenting harmonious. Let go of the notion that you and the other parent are a team. The main thing to remember is that you cannot influence the other parent, only your own actions and reactions.

You could not alter him or her while you were together, and you cannot change them now either. Concentrate on what you can manage, such as your own behavior and the atmosphere and mood in your home.

Everybody experiences poisonous individuals and challenging circumstances in life. Make use of the many possibilities to educate your kids about integrity, character, and the fact that words generally reflect the speaker, and then keep on teaching them about boundaries. It’s a good thing to learn these things early in life.

Should You Teach Your Child About a Narcissistic Parent?

Yes, the child deserves to understand the situation. It’s crucial to avoid being brutally honest with your children while discussing their narcissistic parent. Inform them that their parent is simply not well and express compassion. They’ll think that behavior is normal if you don’t tell them otherwise, as the other parent is effectively modeling this behavior to your children as their reality.

Inform your kid about emotional abuse and manipulation. You just need to be straightforward and honest about the truth of their situation with their other parent. This entails not downplaying the situation and avoiding acting as though nothing is wrong.

Try to make it as age-appropriate as you can. Although this can be challenging, you know your children’s abilities and comprehension levels. Keep it straightforward and sincere. Teach them how to avoid becoming involved in the drama.

Educate the child about the characteristics of a narcissist. This way, the child will be aware of what is wrong and can help steel themselves against that behavior the next time it happens. Prepping the child can go a long way in making them realize that the other parent’s behavior is not right.

You must try not to brush a child’s anger away by downplaying anything when the child is upset about something the narcissistic parent has done or carelessly said. Explain that their other parent is different and doesn’t realize how their actions hurt other people. Listen to their worries and support their feelings.

How To Deal with a Narcissistic Partner When Co-Parenting

Self-care and building self-reliance are important when dealing with a narcissist. Your child will probably be feeling a lot of hurt and bewilderment whenever they engage with the narcissist. Even if you both know you aren’t at fault, believing this is frequently a completely different matter. Your emotional anguish may increase as you consider what you might have done differently to stop the abuse.

One great way to get rid of feelings like that is to forgive yourself. You cannot move forward in life like you want if you do not forgive yourself for any mistakes you may have made. One being having a relationship with your ex and two being having a child with a narcissist. You need to take back control.

A narcissist is driven by how they can control and have power over you. People who spend time with narcissists experience ongoing invalidation of their reality, emotions, and intuition. Inform your kids that the feelings and experiences they are having are real.

Build a healthy community and lifestyle around you. You may take care of yourself by unwinding, keeping strong friendships, relishing life, and finding humor. You can deal with a narcissist when co-parenting with them in several ways.

Keep Communication to a Minimum

Emails can be used for any communication that must be made, as long as the children are the only subject. Try to limit your face-to-face interactions with them and only call them on the phone if absolutely essential. If a phone call is required, keep the focus on the child. Terminate the call as soon as you can if the other parent keeps changing the subject or is being abusive.

This is also where the grey rock method comes into play. The method is called grey rock because, much like a rock, the person doing “grey rock” isn’t all that responsive and is boring, factual, unemotional, and bland (like a rock). By avoiding emotional responses, the hope is that the narcissist gets bored and moves on. When co-parenting with a narcissist, the grey rock method recommends speaking in an uninterested and indifferent manner.

This is a great way to keep your distance from the abusive individual. It also helps minimize unnecessary encounters, as responding to inquiries with concise or one-word responses and communicating in a factual, impersonal manner tend to drive people away.

Related Reading: The Grey Rock Method Of Co-Parenting [GUIDE]

Ensure That You Document Everything

You must document everything. This cannot be stressed enough. The thing about narcissists is they tend to be suave. They know how to maneuver their way with people and the system and they tend to be very convincing liars. Therefore, you must ensure you have your own back and document everything. One great way this can be done is by using a parenting app, like Talking Parent.

Every month, each parent receives a schedule they may customize with information like school-related activities, doctor appointments, and pick-up and drop-off timings. A tone meter notifies the parent if a text is improper, abusive, or both.

It also produces documentation so that you can prove and share it if it occurs. For example, if you sent them a message and they choose to ignore it, you have documentation of that. This is important when you go to court. Documenting everything shows that you are a parent actively trying to do their part, and the other parent is actively trying to sabotage things.

Obtain a Custody Agreement

A custody agreement is an excellent way to simplify the approach of co-parenting with a narcissist. It will be more difficult for them to manipulate the situation to gain greater influence when there is a legal system in place that will most likely help you.

Furthermore, the custody agreement will detail the child’s schedule with each parent and the child’s whereabouts daily, including holidays. Ensure that the custody agreement includes every element in writing to ensure that there are no ambiguities that could be abused.

One of the most crucial things to make co-parenting with a narcissistic manageable is to create a thorough, personalized plan that allows you to establish firm boundaries with them. Your plan should be well thought out to safeguard you and your child from the negative impacts of the narcissistic parent while being fitted to your child’s unique needs.

Courts enforce parenting agreements only when a judge has given his or her approval. Ask the court to convert your unique custody plan into a court order during the legal process. A narcissist is unlikely to adhere to a parenting plan if it isn’t a court decree.

So that you have something concrete to support yourself, always stick to the guidelines outlined in your written agreement. This way, the other parent has nothing to lash out about. Because they will use their kids as pawns and not care how it affects them, a specific plan is best.

Avoid Saying Bad Things About the Other Parent

As much as you might want to bad-mouth the other narcissistic parent, and understandably so, don’t do it in front of your kid. Rather do this with a trusted friend, family member, therapist, etc. Additionally, ensure to keep disagreements with them and any specific slurs or other grievances to yourself.

Ranting only places your child in the spotlight in a situation they had no choice but to be involved in. It increases tension and the need to choose sides. To your kid, disparaging the other parent could make you look like the bad guy. Children are capable of determining who is honest and who is not. Keep in mind that although the other parent is a narcissist, they are still a parent of your child.

If you need to talk to the kids about something you believe the other parent is doing improperly, keep your attention on the particular problem rather than the individual. They require at least one responsible parent; therefore, they will need you to be the bigger, better parent.

Ensure That You Set Boundaries

Setting limits will be beneficial. Despite how much it affects you, your child, and your family, a narcissist will bully you into getting what they want when they want, regardless of everyone else’s needs. Therefore, avoid allowing any kind of change (especially to your approved custody schedule) because it will be demanded of you even more in the future if you open the door to this behavior.

So that both you and the child know what to expect, you need to maintain a routine with your narcissistic co-parent. Placing boundaries and upholding them will come in handy when co-parenting with a narcissist, even if it will never be easy or smooth. When sound boundaries are upheld, co-parenting becomes efficient. This is true only if you make the other parent follow those rules, which they frequently don’t want to do.

Keep in mind that they will always test the boundaries, moreover, this will never be done out of love for the kids, but merely to get a rise from you. They can and will use the kids against you as a weapon. Maintain your boundaries, but remember that narcissists think they are beyond any restrictions. Never accept changes or believe you can rely on them.

The most important boundary to have is to keep your daily affairs private. The narcissist will probe you with inquiries in an effort to gain an advantage later. Discuss no more than brief responses and facts relevant to your child. Set up boundaries that are distinct and solid, and reinforce them whenever they are crossed.

Consider Going for Therapy

Children with narcissistic parents are more likely to experience sadness, anxiety, poor self-esteem, and a lack of self-defense skills. Damage can be reduced by placing the child in therapy as soon as possible, thanks to the assistance and direction of a mental health professional. This provides your kid with an additional safe haven with a reliable adult.

This may be tricky depending on the terms of your custody agreement about shared healthcare decision-making. It also hinges on how cooperative the other parent is about the idea of your child going for therapy.

It would also be wise for you to go for therapy too, as dealing with a narcissist can become too much for you to handle alone. This way, you can work through problems and find solutions for those particularly impossible situations with the assistance of a qualified therapist. You can take a step back and reevaluate your position by talking about your feelings with an impartial person. You’ll be a better parent for your child if you take care of your own wants and feelings.

Attending family counseling with only you and your child may also be the best option.

Continue Reading: Can A Brain Injury Cause Borderline Personality Disorder


It will always be challenging to co-parent with a narcissist. Nevertheless, you may support your child’s development and success by giving them the necessary psychological resources, unconditional love, and emotional support. By being proactive, setting boundaries, and educating your child, you will be more prepared to deal with the situation you find yourself in.

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