There is a very good reason that I didn’t title this post “Co-Parenting with a Narcissist”. Anyone who is in the process of parenting with one, whether together or not, knows that it is more often a counter-parenting situation. It’s not that we non-narcissistic parents are trying to be difficult or undermine the other parent. That’s not the goal or motive here at all, at least not for me, and I hope that is true of you as well. Every time I get my children home from their dad, I am having to detox them. I am not just speaking physically, but also emotionally, mentally, and especially spiritually. My children are in the middle of a battle they do not understand, and no, it’s not between their father and me. This battle is being waged for their souls. Trying to see if they can be tricked into feeling sorry for what has happened to them in their short lives so far. If we let them navigate this alone, we are setting them up to not only have huge issues with their narcissistic parent, but also with us. One of my hopes, as a parent, is that my kids will look back knowing that I fought for them in every way possible. I’m not fighting to get them away from their dad, but I am fighting against the turmoil they face every time they are being manipulated, lied to and abused.
I wish that I could give more insight on how to “successfully” parent with a narcissist, but at this moment in my journey, I am not at liberty to get into all the details. I hope someday to help you all through what I am learning now, though.
What are Your Goals as a Parent?
Parenting is not about one parent verses the other. It’s not about what we want for our children. It should be all about directing our kids to Jesus, and what He wants for them. It’s our number one job to direct them to Jesus, and our secondary jobs as parents are to teach them discernment, boundaries, truth, and how to maintain their overall health. It would be nice if we could just do all of it for them, including protect them, but as parents we don’t have as much control over them as we sometimes might think. Unfortunately, so many of us didn’t want kids in order to share them with someone else separately. For me, when I thought about being a parent, I didn’t imagine not being with them every day of their growing lives. But, that is my reality now, and that is the reality for many of you.
A Look Into Parenting With The Government
Laws differ from state to state and country to country and each family situation and dynamic is unique, so I don’t have all of the answers about what might be best for every child and every family. The government(s) often try to make it where family law best suits the majority of people across the board. There is no way to customize a law that is going to work for everybody.
In my state, it seems as though our family laws work for almost no one. From my observation it seems to be a state that values giving multiple chances to those who continuously “mess up”. The thought seems to be that children are more traumatized being removed from their biological home as opposed to being removed from a toxic and abusive environment. I am at a point where I don’t know how my government could do better because they are so short-handed. They don’t have enough people working in the system, able to look at families any other way besides paperwork piling on their desks. They have to compare situations. Their priority is removing the most at risk children out of their homes. The problem is that many of them get placed back into their homes after a short amount of time.
Another huge problem is the corruption in the foster families. There are those who have good hearts, and want to help give these children a chance at healing and life. They are not the majority. The majority are lazy, abusive, money-hungry villains. In no way better than most of the abusive families these children are being removed from. The system does not seem to be seeing the long-term damage and effects on the children who are kept in their abusive homes. There are many contributing factors to mental health, but the first place we should always look is family of origin and (long-term) environment. These things are overlooked because these government workers have to detonate the bombs about to go off. They don’t see the bigger bombs being built all around them as they just work to put out fires non-stop. Or maybe they do, and just have to tend to the biggest threat at the moment. I’m not necessarily blaming the system all together, and I give huge kudos to those who really take their jobs seriously. I know that they aren’t equipped, and I honestly have no solid proposal for change at this point. But, one thing I do know is that our government can’t do it all for us, just as in any and every other situation. Yes, we need to abide by laws. Yes, we need to speak out against injustice. But what are we doing in our homes first to ensure we are doing our best to produce citizens that will not need the government to step in?
We Can’t Take All The Credit
This part is so hard. We ultimately don’t have control of how our offspring turn out. If we realize that this was never our purpose, then we can get past trying to control every aspect and live in relative peace. One of my fears that I often have to take to God is that one, two or all of my children will turn out to be like their father, continuing the family cycle of narcissism and abuse. Abuse often breeds abuse. I don’t have control over what they see, hear, or have done to them when they are not under my roof. Ultimately, I am helpless in protecting my own. This is one thing that causes great pain for me because mothers were made to nurture and protect. Those things are stripped from those of us who have to share parenting time. Especially when the other parent wants to destroy you.
What We Do Have Control Of
We aren’t as helpless as we feel. We need to accept that we are not going to be able to save our children from all of the pain that they are and will experience. There is never a time to tell your kids how awful their other parent is. Even if that parent treats them terribly, the children still love them, and that can be really confusing. The best thing we can do for our kids in these situation is teach them what real love is and what it is not. Model it for them. Teach them boundaries and personal responsibility. Let them have their emotions, but teach them how not to be controlled by them. It’s hard to teach this when many of us haven’t mastered it ourselves. So, let this prompt you to start making sure you know the truth in these situations, and you are able to model a healthy life with boundaries, love, and all.
It Can Be Okay Even When Our Circumstances Are Less Than Ideal
This battle can be won no matter who’s house the children are staying at. It can be difficult, wanting to fight for full custody, but for many of us, that is unrealistic unless something “more” than the narcissistic abuse presents itself. If you are in the process of obtaining full custody right now, I am not here to discourage you. I just want each of you to educate yourselves on the laws and expectations of your local government. I’m not saying to not try the impossible because God can make it possible. But, are we doing it out of our own panic and fear or are we doing it out of obedience to God? Your answer to this will determine if you need to pursue a full custody situation for your family or not.
There are other things that come into play here as well. Each of our situations are different. God can lead and do all the work for us, though. I am not saying give up. Just acknowledge where your responsibility begins and ends, and where faith needs to take over. God will ask us to takes steps of obedience, but He won’t ask us to take control because we can’t handle it. He can see ahead, we can’t. Prayer is going to be your biggest defense, and the Word your best weapon. I don’t always feel like praying. I get mad and I feel helpless for my kids. Surround yourselves with prayer warriors, and people who can guide you and be your strength when you are weak. Get yourself into counseling. This doesn’t make you weak. Anyone willing to go work on their own junk is no wimp in my book. It takes a real fighter to face and fight their issues, past, present, and future.
Due Diligence and Parenting Well
Don’t turn a blind eye to things that may be going on in the other home or while under that supervision. Listen to your kids, give them permission to speak without trying to change their feelings, experience, thoughts, memories or reality. We don’t want to become the abusive ones in trying to control their situations for them (even when we are simply trying to protect them). If they say something alarming, report it to the proper authorities. If they are coming home with marks, bruises or stories of abuse, document it, and again, possibly report it. That’s not being controlling. It’s one way to reassure yourself that you are not crazy, and they are not crazy. If it’s a one time thing, great, hopefully it was an accident. But, if you notice yourself documenting a lot, don’t ignore that. They are reaching out to the one they feel safest with for help. Do not let them down. Be brave. It could be hard, not knowing what to expect, not knowing where to turn, but seek God in this, and He will provide the people you need for help as well as support.
It’s Okay To Set Co-Parenting Limits
For now, you may have to communicate with your children’s other parent. My advice to you is to simply keep all major communication over email and any emergency or quick communication to text. You get the time and permission to have your feelings, and you get a chance to respond maturely (after the emotions have simmered down). This protects your kids from seeing the fights, manipulation, animosity and tension. This keeps the peace for them. You know narcissists are manipulative. It’s pointless to argue with them. So instead of arguing, present your answer, and without emotion. This is one of the very few reasons I am thankful for technology. This is a huge way to present a boundary and enforce it while being respectful and maintaining dignity. If they try to talk to you in person, you are allowed to say, “Go ahead and email me.” Stick to your guns on this one. This was one of the best “co-parenting” decisions I ever made for myself and my kids.
If All Else Fails, Keep the Rule of 3
If all of this seems too hard, just maintain these three things:
- Never parent out of guilt or fear.
- Surround yourself with a wise and loving community.
- Pray and commit to never stopping.
Even though none of it seems okay, it will be okay in the end. I know how the story goes, and the good Guy wins.
If you are struggling because you have to parent with a narcissist, please comment below, shoot me an email, or reach out via social media.
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