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How can I co-parent with a narcissist?

Co-parenting with a former partner is rarely easy. This is especially true when you suspect your ex may be exhibiting signs of narcissistic personality disorder, which is a condition that causes much stress and strife within families. You can learn to cope with your ex’s behavior, however, which will also enable you to provide coping tools to your kids if your ex plays a significant role in their lives.

Narcissists aren’t usually very encouraging of kids and their pursuits. These people have difficulty connecting to others that don’t share their exact interests, which means your former partner might be dismissive of your child’s passion for sports or playing music. If lack of parental support is bringing your child down, try discussing the issue with your ex. Frame it as a way for your child to grow and expand in ways that your ex finds important. For example, emphasize how playing sports increases confidence, or point out how music lessons can positively impact academic performance.

Kids must be loved unconditionally, which is a challenge for most narcissists. Due to their limited view of the world and human interactions, many narcissists have trouble expressing love and affection during times of trouble. For instance, a misbehaving child will be met with cruelness and contempt instead of simply being disciplined for unwanted behavior. In other cases, a narcissist may criticize a child for not living up to his or her rigid standards.

It’s unlikely you’ll be able to make much headway with a narcissist set in his or her ways. However, this is where it’s your time to shine as a parent. Make sure you are a constant source of unconditional love to your child, even when he or she misbehaves. Also, when speaking to your ex about discipline issues, emphasize the things that he or she does right as a parent. Outright criticism will be dismissed, so you have a much better chance of making an impact if you broach the subject carefully.