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What Does Your Child Need While Parallel Parenting?

by | Oct 3, 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.

Trying to co-parent with a narcissist is like participating in a never-ending game of “Who is Right?”

Spoiler alert: They always win, but your child doesn’t get any prizes.

This is incredibly frustrating and challenging, especially when you are devoting your love and energy to making the situation the best you can for your child.

And then the narcissist comes along and stomps all over your efforts.

Trust me, I was there for many years, but I learned a thing or two about making it easier – especially by parallel parenting.

Parallel parenting is a saving grace when you are co-parenting with a narcissist, but the focus isn’t all about thwarting their ridiculousness or establishing firm boundaries.

The focus needs to be on your child’s well-being as well. 

Your kiddos will definitely reap the benefits of parallel parenting, but let’s talk about what your child needs while implementing this co-parenting style.

How Do You Parallel Parent Effectively?

Okay, so before we get into exactly what your child needs, let’s talk about how to parallel parent the right way.

Well, there really isn’t a “right” way, but there are definitely ways you can make it more effective.

Parallel parenting involves maintaining a strict boundary between you and your ex-partner while ensuring your child’s needs are met.

It’s all about limiting communication in order to reduce conflict and stress in your and your child’s life.

Here are some strategies that make parallel parenting effective:

Limit Communication to Written Forms

Communicating through written forms like text or email means that your child is not hearing the arguments and stupidity coming from your ex.

Reading the nasty things your ex has to say instead of hearing them face-to-face is also less stressful – and it gives you an opportunity to calm down before deciding if you need to respond and what you should say.

Plus, if you ever need proof of what your ex has said, it’s harder to dispute something in writing!

Keep Your Emotions in Check

Easier said than done, I know, but parallel parenting often involves high-conflict situations, and practicing emotional regulation will help you avoid getting drawn into arguments or disputes.

It will also help you model better conflict resolution skills for your child and prevent them from witnessing any conflict.

Stick to the Parenting Plan

Whether you have made a parenting time agreement with your ex or one has been court-ordered, make sure you stick to it as closely as possible to reduce ambiguity and conflicts.

If your plan is drawn up in a court order, this is super important since breaking the rules is also breaking the law.

If you have come up with an agreement with your ex without family court, make sure the plan is clear and detailed.

(And if you want to learn more about how to create a parallel parenting plan, I wrote an article about it here. Don’t worry, it’ll open in a new tab!)

Ultimately, sticking to the plan wll provide consistency for your child. Children best develop when things are consistent, and they know what to expect.

Focus On Your Child, Not Your Ex

Yes, your narcissistic ex is going to take up a lot of your time and energy while you’re trying to parallel parent but remember that the true star of this show is your child.

And when you are making choices about your child, make sure you are prioritizing their needs and interests over trying to piss off your ex.

I know you wouldn’t do this intentionally, but anger and frustration can make us do things that don’t make sense.

So, just keep this in mind while you are parallel parenting!

How Does Parallel Parenting Affect a Child?

While parallel parenting is the best thing you can do when trying to co-parent with a narcissist, it’s not without its pitfalls.

To be fair, co-parenting is the best solution – it involves mutual respect between the parents for the sake of the child. 

But when you’re dealing with a narcissist or a toxic or difficult ex, this is not possible, and parallel parenting is your best bet.

Parallel parenting reduces stress because your child is less likely to feel caught up in the middle of disputes, which reduces the risk of stress and anxiety.

It also provides a stable environment for your child by creating a consistent routine and, again, reducing their exposure to conflict.

However, parallel parenting means that you and your ex parent your child as you choose, without getting into each other’s business about it.

(Unless your child is being harmed in any way!)

This can lead to confusion for your child if you and your ex have different rules or expectations.

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about this since your ex is probably never going to get on the same parenting page as you.

But you can focus on providing stability and fairness in your home – your kid will catch on eventually.

Overall, even with this inconsistency of rules and expectations, the conflict reduction parallel parenting offers is well worth it for the well-being of your child.

What Do Kids Need From Both Parents?

While parallel parenting aims to minimize direct contact between parents, children still need support and involvement from both sides.

They need love, emotional support, consistency, quality time, and communication.

However, you and I both know that they are not likely to receive any or all of these things from a narcissistic parent.

So, what can you do to help support your child?

Let’s take a closer look at what your child needs from both parents and how you can make things better for them:

Love and Emotional Support

The Challenge: Narcissistic parents often prioritize their own needs and desires over their child’s emotions. They typically lack empathy and struggle to provide genuine emotional support.

What You Can Do: Be the consistent source of love and support in your child’s life. Reassure them that you’re there to listen, validate their feelings, and offer comfort when they need it. Encourage them to express their feelings freely without fear of judgment.


The Challenge: Narcissistic parents may be unpredictable in their behavior and rules, which can leave a child feeling anxious and confused.

What You Can Do: Like I mentioned before, establish clear and consistent rules and routines in your own household. This will provide your child with a sense of stability and predictability, making them feel safer. 

Quality Time

The Challenge: Narcissistic parents may be self-absorbed, leaving little time for quality interactions with their child.

What You Can Do: Dedicate quality one-on-one time with your child. Engage in activities they enjoy, ask about their interests, and create special moments together.


The Challenge: Narcissistic parents may not prioritize open and honest communication with their child, making it difficult for the child to express their feelings and concerns.

What You Can Do: Foster a safe space for your child to communicate and let them know they can talk to you about anything without fear of consequences. Be a good listener and validate their feelings. 


The Challenge: Children of narcissistic parents may internalize blame or feel unloved due to their parent’s self-centered behavior.

What You Can Do: Continuously reassure your child that they are not responsible for the behavior of their narcissistic parent. Let them know that both parents love them, even if one struggles to show it.

So, What Does Your Child Need While Parallel Parenting?

Your child needs you to prioritize them.

I know that juggling parenting plans and ridiculous ploys to start arguments is enough work, but your child needs to be at the center of parallel parenting.

Just remember that everything you do while parallel parenting, from limiting communication to establishing boundaries, benefits your child.

But on top of that, make sure you are giving them the emotional support and consistency they will likely not receive from their other parent.

Parallel parenting takes a lot of energy, and it’s not fair that we have to put in so much extra effort to keep our exes from destroying our children, but this is our job.

And parallel parenting helps us do the best we can!

Putting Your Child First: Navigating Parallel Parenting with Love and Care

So, there you go! I hope this helps you better understand how to effectively parallel parenting so that your child is the winner.

Parallel parenting is challenging, but by focusing on your child’s needs, you can provide a stable and loving environment for your child – even in a high-conflict co-parenting situation.

You’ve got this!

How do you support your child while parallel parenting? What challenges do you face? Let me know 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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