How To Help Your Kids Cope With A Narcissistic Parent
Divorcing a narcissist comes with many complications. But your biggest concern should be protecting your children from a narcissistic parent.
Be Your Child’s Calm Parent
A divorce is likely to escalate emotions and certainly amplify some of your spouse’s narcissistic tendencies.
Though this will be a tumultuous time for you, someone has to consider the kids. Protecting their calm and sense of security is going to fall on you.
That means managing your anger and attempting to control your emotions in front of them. They already have one angry parent – don’t make them have two.
Don’t Fall Into The Narcissistic Parents Trap
The narcissist’s goal will be to get an emotional reaction out of you. They want you to act illogically so they can play the victim and paint you out to be the bad parent. Don’t let emotions distract you from what is in your children’s best interest.
Getting down the narcissistic parents level will only dilute the effects of the narcissist’s actions in the eyes of the court and the eyes of your children.
Limit Interaction During Parenting Time
As long as you feel your child is safe, limit the amount of time you call or text your children.
I often have my clients either set a specific time for calls or let the child call you. This limits your interaction with the narcissistic parent when calls are made to reach the child but gives the child assurance that they will be able to speak to you.
If the child is old enough to have their own cell phone, this is less of an issue.
Minimize Contact With The Narcissistic Parent Outside Of The Children
A narcissist will try to keep the conflict going long after the divorce decree is signed. If you allow them into your life and into your head, they will attempt to keep that emotional control over you.
You can limit this by not communicating about anything other than the children. Keep the communication in writing and don’t address anything off subject. If it’s not about the kids, ignore it.
Avoiding constant conflict helps your kids have stability and security.
Give Your Children Validation
Narcissists are really good at making you feel like your feelings aren’t valid. This can be especially damaging to children.
Without disparaging the narcissist parent, let your children know you see and hear them and their feeling are valid.
Getting that support from you can help them better deal with invalidation from the narcissistic parent.
Don’t Criticize Your Ex In Front Of Your Children
I get it. You’re frustrated. And often the only other people who get what you are going through are the narcissist’s other victims: your children.
Even though your children may seem mature, they are not physiologically equipped to take on the burden of being your therapist.
Remember the narcissist is their parent and though their behavior may be deplorable the child still loves them. It’s never ok to speak negatively about your child’s other parent. Even if what you are saying is true.
Again, stopping to this level will dilute the narcissist’s negative actions.
Don’t Allow Your Child To Be Physically Or Emotionally Abused By The Narcissistic
If you see or learn that your child is being abused by the narcissist parent, you must take action. It’s your job to protect your child and not doing so makes you as guilty as the abuser.
WAYS TO PROTECT YOUR CHILDREN FROM THE NARCISSISTIC PARENT:
Narcissists are great at portraying themselves as ideal parents to the court. Often you will need documented proof of the abuse before any action will be taken by the court or authorities.
How you go about documenting depends on the situation. Advice from a lawyer proficient in narcissistic divorce can help you go about it the right way.
Enforce Court Orders
If you are represented by a lawyer with experience in narcissist divorce, they likely would have ensured court orders contained provisions that help mitigate abuse of the children by the narcissist parent.
Some provisions I typically request include:
- Counseling for the child or even therapeutic visits where the child and narcissist parent meet with a therapist together to help repair the relationship. Keep in mind that many narcissists refuse to attend therapy even if it’s the only way the court will allow them to see the child.
- Non-disparagement clauses that prevent parents from disparaging the other to the child. This can even include preventing the narcissistic parent from disparaging the child.
- Clauses that prohibit certain types of discipline including corporal punishment.
- In some cases, supervised visits may be required.
Court orders are directive and failing to follow them has consequences. Failing to follow a custody order can result in loss of custody or access the child.
If a narcissistic parent is violating court orders, you have to make sure those orders are enforced. If you do nothing you will be equally responsible for the negative effects on your child.
This doesn’t mean filing a violation for every small thing, but if the violation is hurting your child it’s your obligation to ensure the order is enforced.
Encourage Your Child To Speak To Their Attorney
In most New York custody cases an attorney for the child is appointed. Their job is to represent the child’s desires to the court.
In a custody case, a narcissistic spouse will attempt to portray you as trying to alienate the child when you try to bring their narcissistic tendencies to the attention of the court.
It’s best to let the child’s concerns come from the child directly.
Do not tell your child what to say. Do not push your child to say anything. But you should let them know that they can tell their lawyer anything about you or the other parent. Let them know that no one will be upset if they tell the truth.
If they are old enough, give them the attorney’s contact information and encourage them to contact their attorney directly.
If they come to you with complaints about the other parent, acknowledge that you hear them and suggest they discuss it with their attorney.
Divorcing a narcissist will be difficult for you but can be even more difficult for your child. Using these tips can help you make the process easier for them.
How do you protect your children from your narcissist spouse? Share in the comments below.