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Parallel Parenting Strategies to Protect Your Child from a Narcissist

by | Nov 7, 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.

When you hear the term “parallel parenting”, what do you think of?

Do you think of court orders, visitation schedules, and communication rules?

While these are all extremely important aspects of parallel parenting, parallel parenting is a strategy that will help you prioritize the well-being and emotional safety of your child.

When you’re co-parenting with a narcissist, you have to protect your child from their toxic behaviors.

This includes the way they criticize their children as well as their constant need to start fights, arguments, and conflict.

While you can’t change the way your ex acts, you can do things to protect your child from the effects of their behaviors.

And you can do this by parallel parenting!

Let’s take a look at some parallel parenting strategies you can use to protect your child:

Understanding Parallel Parenting

What is Parallel Parenting?

Parallel parenting is a co-parenting strategy for high-conflict situations. It involves minimizing direct communication and interaction with your ex while prioritizing your child’s well-being.

Overall, it helps protect children from conflict by allowing each parent to do their thing separately while maintaining clear boundaries.

Now, that’s not to say that parallel parenting works 100% perfectly when it comes to narcissistic co-parents, but it definitely helps to reduce conflict and stress.

Parallel Parenting vs Co-Parenting

While traditional co-parenting promotes communication and collaboration, parallel parenting minimizes direct contact.

This means avoiding face-to-face conversations whenever possible and only talking about things related to the child when necessary.

So while we talk about our exes as “co-parents,” we may not necessarily be able to co-parent with them.

When is Parallel Parenting Necessary?

Parallel parenting is often necessary when dealing with a narcissist or difficult ex. These situations usually involve consistent conflicts, manipulation, or emotional abuse.

This makes cooperative co-parenting impossible.

So parallel parenting comes to the rescue with a parenting method that helps you take control of the situation and remove yourself from conflict.

To learn more, check out Parallel Parenting With a Narcissist: The Complete Guide!

Setting the Foundation for Parallel Parenting

Establishing Clear Boundaries

Setting clear boundaries is an important part of parallel parenting. Even if your ex consistently oversteps boundaries, you still need to clearly define your roles and responsibilities.

In order to make sure your ex follows these boundaries, have these boundaries in writing. You should also ensure that the boundaries are fair and make sense.

This can help reduce misunderstandings and conflicts.

Having these in writing can be as simple as having your ex agree to something in a text message or communicating your boundaries in a text message.

For example, if your ex is being verbally abusive, you can tell them: “I won’t keep having a conversation with you if you insult me.”

Boundary set, and you can end the conversation if the insults continue.

Communication Guidelines

Establish a set of communication guidelines with your ex. If you’re co-parenting with a narcissistic parent, it can be hard to have a conversation without it devolving into an argument or fight.

Keep all communication factual and focused on your child’s needs and well-being. Use written communication when possible to maintain a record of interactions.

Don’t try to defend yourself or your choices to your ex. Ignore their accusations and address the point of the conversation.

For instance, if they want to buy your child new shoes because you are, according to them, a terrible parent who doesn’t buy their child nice things, simply let your ex know their shoe size.

There’s no point in trying to set them straight on why you buy them the shoes you do. They won’t listen, and it was never their intent to understand your side of the situation.

Legal Aspects and Court Orders

In parallel parenting, legal agreements and court orders play a significant role. They keep both parents accountable and ensure a structured environment for your children.

If you can’t come to any agreements with your ex, or they constantly manipulate your agreements, speak to a lawyer about establishing a court order to protect your children.

A court order is a legal document signed by a case master/judge that outlines each parent’s responsibilities. It also sets out rules, such as how parents can communicate.

Keep in mind that once agreements are set out in a court order, you are equally responsible for following them – and not following them can have legal consequences.

You can learn more about communicating in a parallel parenting arrangement in my article here.

Strategies to Protect Your Children

Eliminating Conflict

Minimize contact between you and your ex to shield your child from any negativity and hostility between you two.

When disputes do arise, use written communication or consult with your lawyer rather than engaging in direct confrontations.

This is why I wanted to talk about parallel parenting because it really does allow you to avoid conflicts as much as possible.

It’s not going to 100% protect your child from their narcissistic parent’s toxic behavior. But if you can avoid having your child watch you in conflict with your ex, this is hugely beneficial to them.

Building Self-Esteem

Children of narcissistic parents may suffer from low self-esteem due to constant criticism or emotional manipulation.

Boost your child’s self-esteem by providing unconditional love and praise. Encourage them to pursue their interests and passions.

Co-parenting with a narcissist means you almost have to do double duty to make up for the love and support they can’t give to your child.

But doing this is going to give your child an amazing sense of self-worth and help them build resilience against their other parent’s narcissistic behaviors.

Be Their Safe Place

Create a safe and nurturing environment for your child. Ensure that they feel secure in both households by maintaining consistent routines and rules.

Be the steady, loving presence they can rely on.

Again, you need to be their rock because there’s no guarantee their other parent is going to be consistent. 

But this doesn’t mean you need to coddle your child. You still need to be a parent, but you can guide and discipline while providing love and support.

Check out my post Can I Protect My Child From Their Toxic Narcissistic Parent to learn more strategies and tips!

Emotional Support For Your Children

Establishing a Supportive Routine

Children thrive in stable environments. Develop a supportive routine that your child can rely on.

Consistency can provide a sense of security, especially when transitioning between households.

However, it’s likely that your narcissistic co-parent is not going to provide consistency. While you can’t control how they run their household, you can control yours.

Try to keep things as consistent as possible while allowing for changes and flexibility. As long as your child has expectations, they will be okay!

Encourage Self-Expression

Allow your child to express their thoughts and feelings. Encourage open communication, and let them know that their opinions are valued.

This can help your child develop healthy emotional coping skills.

You can encourage your kiddo to write in a journal or draw to help them work through their thoughts and feelings.

If your child is having a tough time, you can always have them talk to a therapist.

Modeling Healthy Coping Strategies

Set a positive example for your child by demonstrating healthy ways to cope with stress and emotions.

By practicing self-care and maintaining your emotional well-being, you show your child how to manage life’s challenges effectively.

This is important for things that happen in the moment, like arguments with your ex. Show your child how to handle conflict by keeping your cool, being mature, and ignoring issues that don’t have to be addressed.

For instance, if your ex tries to start a fight with you in front of your child, address their concerns calmly, give a straightforward response, and then leave the conversation.

Providing emotional support to your child is super important. You can learn more strategies by clicking here!

Coordinating with Professionals

Communicating With Doctors and Health Professionals

Share relevant information about your child’s health with doctors and health professionals.

Ensure that both parents have access to medical records and are informed about any medical appointments.

If your ex is particularly fond of starting fights over everything, create a shared folder or use an app like Our Family Wizard to store medical documents.

This can help you avoid having unnecessary conversations.

Involving Therapists and Counselors

Consider involving therapists and counselors to provide support for your child’s mental health.

These professionals can help your child navigate the challenges of co-parenting with a narcissistic parent and build healthy coping mechanisms.

After dealing with anxiety caused by her other parent, I had my child speak to a therapist. I have zero idea what they talk about, but the improvement in her mental health is amazing!

Now, how much you have to share with your ex regarding therapy is iffy. While you are expected to share important information with your co-parent, therapy does protect your child’s privacy.

You can offer to have the therapist communicate with your ex about important and concerning issues – the same things the therapist would talk to you about. This will help avoid any direct conversations between the two of you regarding your child’s therapy.

Set some firm boundaries here as well. Make sure your ex knows that they are not to ask your child about their sessions – your child can talk about it if they choose.

Also, tell your ex that you will not have any direct conversations with them regarding your child’s therapy unless it’s to strategize plans that will benefit your child.

Coordinating With Teachers and School Staff

Maintain open communication with your child’s school.

Ensure that teachers and staff are aware of your co-parenting situation, allowing them to provide support and understanding when necessary.

In order to reduce communication with your ex, schedule separate parent-teacher conferences. 

Learn more about coordinating with professionals while parallel parenting!

Self-Care for Parents

The Importance of Self-Care in Parallel Parenting

Taking care of yourself is not selfish – it’s essential for effective parallel parenting and protecting your child.

When you prioritize your physical and emotional well-being, you can better support your child.

The more you can find ways to relax and build resilience against your ex, the more you can provide a peaceful environment to your kiddo.

Coping With Stress and Emotions

Learn to manage stress and emotions through healthy means. Consider professional counseling and take time to engage in activities that help you feel relaxed and calm.

Dealing with a narcissistic co-parent is stressful (duh!), but you can’t make them go away or change their behaviors.

The best you can do is take care of yourself and your children so you can all safeguard your mental health against their toxic behaviors.

Seeking Support From Friends and Family

Don’t hesitate to lean on your support network. Friends and family can provide emotional support, respite, and a listening ear when you need it most.

You can also reach out to support groups for people dealing with narcissistic co-parents.

Just remember that you are not alone! As stressful as your situation is, there are others who are dealing with it, too, and completely understand what it’s like.

Want to learn more about self-care while parallel parenting? Check out my article here!

Avoiding Common Pitfalls of Parallel Parenting

Common Mistakes in Parallel Parenting

Recognize and avoid common mistakes in parallel parenting. These may include unnecessary confrontations, neglecting your child’s needs, or getting caught up in past conflicts.

Doing so is going to help you protect your child from conflict and stress.

Just remember that nobody parallel parents perfectly! You’re going to make mistakes, but recognizing them is what makes you an awesome parent. ????

Learning From Past Conflicts

Reflect on past conflicts with your ex to improve your parallel parenting approach. Learning from mistakes can lead to more effective strategies in the future.

I know when I look back on my situation, there are more than a few forehead-slapping moments!

Like, “Why did I say that?” and “Why did I get so upset over that?”

One of the best ways you can protect your child is to allow yourself to grow as a co-parent.

You can learn more about parallel parenting mistakes by reading my post here!

Focusing On Your Child’s Best Interests

Always keep your child’s best interests at the forefront of your decisions. Prioritize their well-being above all else.

Sometimes we can get so focused on parallel parenting and managing our own behaviors that we forget our kiddos are at the epicenter of this entire situation.

Yes, we are trying to reduce conflict and make things less stressful on ourselves so we don’t feel like crazy people 24/7, but we really need to remember why we are doing this in the first place.

Knowing this makes it all feel worth it, even in the crappiest of situations!

Protect Your Child From the Effects of Narcissistic Parenting

Parallel parenting is a valuable strategy if you are co-parenting with a narcissistic ex.

It places your child’s best interests at the forefront of the entire situation and allows you to protect them as best you can.

By understanding parallel parenting and using it, you can provide a safe and supportive environment for your child – even in the most challenging co-parenting situations!

What are your experiences with parallel parenting? How do you find it helps your child? Share your experiences in the comments! ⬇️⬇️⬇️

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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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