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Co-Parenting Self-Care: 8 Tips to Manage Stress and Chaos

by | Oct 19, 2023 | 0 comments

The term “narcissism” on this blog is used to describe a specific set of personality traits. It is not intended to be used as a professional diagnosis.

No co-parenting situation is perfect, but when you’re dealing with an ex who is particularly difficult, it’s hard to avoid the co-parenting stress.

I’ve been through the emotional toil and chaos of trying to co-parent with a narcissist while also trying to be a good mom for my daughter – it’s overwhelming and exhausting.

That’s why I had to start focusing on co-parenting self-care.

Okay, so it’s basically like real self-care, but it’s something you need to address if you are having a hard time co-parenting.

But before we get into our co-parenting self-care tips, let’s talk about why co-parenting is so stressful in the first place.

Why is Co-Parenting So Stressful?

First of all, it’s important to note that co-parenting is not supposed to cause stress and anxiety on a regular basis because co-parenting is all about being respectful and understanding for the sake of the child.

However, there are often bad feelings between parents when the relationship breaks down. For most, these negative feelings linger only temporarily and disperse once everyone has settled into a co-parenting situation.

This is perfectly normal, and it’s still important to take care of yourself during this time.

What’s not normal is butting heads with a difficult or high-conflict co-parent who insists on purposefully doing things like sabotaging parenting plans or shirking parenting responsibilities.

If you’re dealing with a narcissist or someone who is toxic, this probably sounds too familiar.

Co-parenting stress can happen for a number of reasons, including:

  • Constant Conflict and Communication Issues: Co-parenting requires ongoing communication, but this can be fraught with tension, manipulation, or misunderstandings.
  • Emotional Rollercoaster: The emotional ups and downs of co-parenting can be draining. It’s not uncommon to feel things like anger, sadness, frustration, or anxiety.
  • Lack of Control: When you co-parent, you have little to no control over how your ex behaves or treats your child. This can be frustrating and anxiety-inducing, especially if you are dealing with a toxic or narcissistic co-parent.
  • Impact on Children: Witnessing ongoing conflict and negativity between parents can have a profound impact on your children, adding a layer of stress and concern.

I just want to stress that even if your difficult co-parenting situation is temporary, it’s still difficult.

Even if your ex is not a terrible person and is just struggling to adjust to the situation, it’s still stressful and overwhelming.

No matter why your ex is acting the way they are, you still deserve to focus on your co-parenting self-care!

Co-Parenting Self-Care Tips

Okay, so we talked about how a difficult co-parent can affect your emotional and mental health. Now it’s time to look at how you can mitigate the effects of this and maintain peace and balance in your life.

Here are some essential self-care tips that can help you manage stress and chaos while co-parenting in a challenging environment:

1. Set Boundaries

Setting boundaries with your co-parent is crucial!

These boundaries can include specific rules for communication, guidelines for custody exchanges, or even limitations on discussing personal matters.

When discussing these boundaries, try to use “I” statements so that your ex doesn’t become defensive. For example, you could say, “I need us to communicate through text.”

2. Prioritize Self-Care Activities

As far as actual co-parent self-care activities go, make sure you make these a top priority in your life.

Self-care looks different for everyone, but most people gravitate toward things like warm baths, reading, drinking tea, journaling, etc.

But don’t forget the benefits of regular exercise, which helps to release endorphins that reduce stress and improve your mood. 

Basically, do things that make you feel better and relaxed and provide a mental break from co-parenting stress.

3. Seek Support

Lean on your support network. Friends and family who know about your situation can offer a listening ear and emotional support.

If you’re looking for people who truly understand co-parenting with a difficult ex, you can always join support groups or online communities.

In fact, I run a support group on Facebook for those dealing with challenging co-parenting situations! Click the image below to join.

4. Develop Coping Strategies

Identifying healthy coping strategies is a huge part of co-parenting self-care.

One of the best things you can do to alleviate co-parenting stress is to write in a journal to express your emotions and gain clarity.

You can also try meditation to help you stay centered, even in the midst of chaos.

If needed, professional therapy is an option that can provide you with valuable coping strategies tailored to your unique situation.

5. Focus on Positive Communication

If communicating with your ex causes you stress and anxiety, try to keep your interactions as positive and solution-oriented as possible.

Choose your battles wisely and only respond when you feel you absolutely must – and when you do, emphasize problem-solving instead of making accusations or pointing out flaws.

Keep interactions short and child-focused while maintaining a civil and respectful tone. This can go a long way to reducing stress.

6. Build a Supportive Routine

Creating a stable and comforting routine can be incredibly beneficial when it comes to addressing co-parenting stress. 

This includes not only daily schedules for your children but also for yourself. Establish regular mealtimes, bedtime rituals, and consistent activities.

This will provide a sense of security and predictability for both you and your children.

7. Legal Consultation

Ultimately, if co-parenting disputes become unmanageable, it may be time to contact a family attorney who specializes in high-conflict co-parenting situations.

They can offer expert advice and help you navigate complex legal matters, like establishing a court order or determining custody.

Sometimes having a legal plan in writing can alleviate co-parenting stress since there are concrete expectations and schedules that need to be followed.

8. Practice Patience

Remember that change takes time, so you need to stay patient with yourself and the co-parenting process.

Either your ex is going to get over it and smarten up, or you’re going to build resilience against a toxic or narcissistic co-parent.

While it may be hard to see immediate improvements, over time, your consistent efforts will lead to a better co-parenting situation.

Thrive Amidst the Chaos With Co-Parenting Self-Care

Co-parenting can be a tough journey, whether the struggles are temporary or permanent.

Either way, taking care of yourself is the best thing you can do to navigate this difficult path!

Remember, your well-being and your children’s well-being are totally worth the effort.

How do you take care of yourself while co-parenting? Share your tips in the comments below!

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Let’s create a supportive community and navigate the complexities of co-parenting with strength and resilience!



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