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Parallel Parenting With a Narcissist: The Complete Guide

by | Oct 30, 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.

Co-parenting can be challenging under the best of circumstances, but when you find yourself co-parenting with a narcissist or toxic ex, the difficulties can escalate to a whole new level.

And when you throw that on top of trying to manage your kids as a single parent, it creates a special kind of chaos.

But even though you are having a hard time co-parenting, doesn’t mean the insanity has to last forever.

You may not be able to change your ex’s behaviors or improve your parenting relationship, but there is a way to maintain your sanity and protect your child’s well-being.

It’s called parallel parenting, and in this guide, I’m going to walk you through what that is and how you can use it to calm the crazy in your life.

Let’s get started with the tools and insights you need to navigate this complex terrain.

Understanding Narcissism and Co-Parenting

Narcissistic Personality Traits and Behaviors

Before we get into parallel parenting strategies, let’s talk about what narcissism is. Understanding narcissism is the first step in addressing your situation.

First of all, on this blog, we refer to narcissism as a set of personality traits that best describe the way our exes behave. We are not diagnosing them with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). This is something only a professional can do.

But we can use the term “narcissist” to help us understand their behaviors. For instance, they may display a profound sense of entitlement, believing that everyone “owes” them because they are so awesome and have been so wronged.

They may also have a lack of empathy or a complete disregard for how they make other people feel. So they may be completely aware that they are hurting you, but they don’t care because fulfilling their needs is more important.

Narcissists often have a hard time with criticism and consider feedback to be a personal attack. This usually results in them becoming highly defensive and very angry.

These are just a few narcissistic personality traits, but they are ones that can make co-parenting a huge challenge.

Different Types of Narcissists

It’s also important to note that narcissism is not a one-size-fits-all personality type. There are different types of narcissists, ranging from those who are obvious to those who are more closeted.

Recognizing your ex’s specific narcissistic traits can help you tailor your parallel parenting approach to fit their behavior.

And that’s not to say that you are going to bend to their will – it means that you are going to use your knowledge of how they operate against them to avoid conflicts and personal attacks.

The Impact of Narcissism on Co-Parenting

Narcissistic behavior can have a significant impact on your co-parenting experience. If often leads to power struggles, manipulation, and emotional turbulence.

One defining characteristic of a narcissist is their need to always be right. They don’t take responsibility for their actions, and everything that happens to them is someone else’s fault.

This bleeds into the co-parenting relationship for many reasons, but typically a narcissist will make things difficult to maintain control of you through your child.

They see your child as a surefire way to get you to pay attention to them so they can continue to bully you and manipulate you.

But parallel parenting will help mitigate all of that nasty treatment!

To learn more about narcissism and its impact on co-parenting, check out my article here.

Parallel Parenting Communication Strategies

This article contains affiliate links, and if you make a purchase through these links, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Limiting Direct Communication

When you’re having a hard time co-parenting with a narcissist, the best thing you can do to reduce conflict is limit direct communication. Set boundaries by using methods like email or a co-parenting app.

This way, you can keep communication structured and less emotional. Narcissists will say anything to belittle you, upset you, and cause an argument. The more you control communication, the fewer opportunities they will have to do this.

Using a Third-Party Mediator or App

Using a third-party mediator or co-parenting app like OurFamilyWizard can provide a neutral platform for communication. This can help ensure that important information is shared while minimizing direct contact with your narcissistic co-parent.

Establishing Clear Boundaries

Clearly defined boundaries are crucial in a parallel parenting arrangement. Establish rules and guidelines for communication, and stick to them consistently.

For example, you can tell your ex that you will only engage in respectful conversations regarding your child. If they start insulting you or go off-topic, tell them you are ending the conversation.

Even limiting your communication to written forms like text and email is a boundary you can establish.

You have more control in this situation than you may think, and establishing your boundaries is one way you can take back your power!

You can learn all about parallel parenting communication strategies in my article here.

Parallel Parenting Toolbox

Co-Parenting Apps and Tools

We’ve already talked about co-parenting apps like OurFamilyWizard, but these are an amazing way to help streamline communication and document interactions.

They also help to provide clarity with agreements and hold your ex accountable for those agreements.

Parallel Parenting Plans and Schedules

Having a well-structured parenting plan and schedule in place can minimize potential conflicts and provide a stable routine for your child.

You can come up with your own agreement with your ex. But if they are contrary and argumentative, you may need to get a court order (more on that below).

When you are creating a parenting schedule, make sure you are approaching it with fairness and respect (even if your ex doesn’t). Don’t forget to include things like transportation, meeting places, cancellations, etc.

Tips for Handling Shared Events

Pay close attention to shared events like birthdays and holidays. These can be tricky!

Plan in advance and communicate your expectations in writing. But make sure you stay flexible to make sure your child’s experiences are as positive as possible.

Click here to learn more about creating a parallel parenting plan.

Dealing With High-Conflict Situations While Parallel Parenting

Gray Rock Method

When you’re parallel parenting with a narcissist, you are going to run into high-conflict situations. Unfortunately, it’s inevitable, but knowing how to deal with them and avoid them will make your life easier.

You can use the “gray rock” method, which involves responding to your ex with minimal emotion or reaction. In essence, you are making yourself as interesting as a gray rock on the ground.

This can be a super effective way to avoid escalating conflicts.

Third-Party Intervention

In situations of extreme conflict, consider involving third-party professionals like therapists, mediators, or court-appointed supervisors to oversee interactions.

Documenting Conflicts

Be sure that you document any high-conflict incidents, even if you write them down in a journal or save your text messages.

These records can be essential if you need to take legal action to protect your child’s well-being.

I have more information about dealing with high-conflict situations if you want to check it out here.

Parallel Parenting Do’s and Don’ts


  • Focus on the Child’s Best Interests: Keep your child’s well-being at the forefront of your decision-making, even when dealing with a difficult co-parent.
  • Maintain Consistency and Routines: Consistency can provide a sense of stability and security for your child, even in the midst of a challenging co-parenting situation.
  • Encourage a Healthy Relationship with the Other Parent: Support your child’s relationship with the narcissistic parent as long as it’s safe and healthy for the child.


  • Engage in Power Struggles: Avoid getting drawn into arguments or power struggles with the narcissistic parent. Stay focused on your child’s needs.
  • React to Provocations: Narcissists may try to provoke reactions from you. Try to maintain emotional composure and avoid giving in to their tactics.
  • Use the Child as a Pawn: Never involve your child in adult conflicts. Shield them from any emotional manipulation or attempts to use them as leverage.

For more parallel parenting do’s and don’ts, click here.

Self-Care for the Co-Parent While Parallel Parenting

Managing Emotional Stress

Parallel parenting with a narcissist can be emotionally taxing. It’s important that you manage your emotional stress by seeking healthy outlets, such as exercise, meditation, or therapy.

You can also incorporate activities in your life that help you feel calm and relaxed. This can include things like reading a book, writing in a journal, playing a game on your phone, or watching a series on Netflix.

Self-care doesn’t have to be productive. In fact, the more non-productive it is, the better it is for your emotional health. The activities you choose should have no expectations other than to relax and unwind.

Building a Support System

Surround yourself with friends and family who understand your situation and can provide emotional support. Sharing your experience with others who have been through similar challenges can be incredibly reassuring.

If you don’t feel like the people in your life completely get your situation, you can always join an online support group. Here you’ll find people who know exactly what it’s like to be in your shoes!

Seeking Therapy or Counseling

Professional therapy or counseling can help you cope with the emotional toll of parallel parenting with a narcissist. Sometimes having an outside perspective can help you untangle your situation.

Therapy can also provide valuable tools for managing difficult interactions with your ex.

Looking for more self-care tips? Check out my article here! 

Parallel Parenting and Your Child’s Well-Being

Recognizing Signs of Emotional Distress

Your child is the main focus of parallel parenting. As you navigate this challenging situation with your ex, it’s important to pay attention to how it’s affecting your child.

Keep an eye on your child’s behaviors for signs of emotional distress. These may include mood changes, sleep issues, and academic or behavioral problems.

Supporting Your Child’s Emotional Health

In order to support your child, create a nurturing environment where they know they are loved and safe, regardless of the co-parenting situation.

Therapy for Your Child

If necessary, consider therapy or counseling for your child to help them process their emotions and cope with the challenges of parallel parenting.

Find out more ways you can support your child’s mental health by clicking here.

Legal Considerations When Parallel Parenting

Custody Arrangements and Court Orders

When co-parenting with a narcissist, having clear custody arrangements and court orders is essential.

While you may try to negotiate parenting arrangements on your own, if your ex is highly aggressive and contrary, you will likely have to file for a court order.

These legal documents can help minimize misunderstandings and vague agreements. Court orders also provide a framework for your co-parenting relationship.

Make sure that these orders are detailed and specify responsibilities and visitation schedules.

Documentation and Evidence

It’s important to keep detailed records of your interactions and any incidences that occur during co-parenting.

These records can serve as valuable evidence if you never need to revisit any arrangements in court.

Seeking Legal Counsel

Parallel parenting with a narcissist will, as I mentioned, likely require legal guidance. Consulting an attorney experienced in family law can help you understand your rights and obligations.

They can also give you advice on how to protect yourself and your child legally.

Check out my article here to learn more about parallel parenting and legal considerations.

Resources and Support for Parallel Parenting

Books and Recommended Reading

There are many books and resources available on co-parenting with a narcissist. Educate yourself to better understand the situation and gain practical advice.

In fact, I wrote a book called “You Can’t Co-Parent With a Narcissist: A Guide to Parallel Parenting,” which you can find on Amazon.

This book offers tons of insight and strategies for navigating the complexities of parallel parenting with a narcissist based on my real-life experience and expertise.

You can check it out here!

Courses and Online Learning

If you’re looking for in-depth guidance on parallel parenting and managing conflicts, I also created a course called “Parallel Parenting: How to Parent With a Toxic Ex.” 

This course covers essential topics like creating a parallel parenting plan and handling conflicts while prioritizing the well-being of your children.

It’s a great resource to help you build the skills and knowledge necessary to successfully navigate this challenging journey. Learn more here!

Support Groups and Online Communities

You don’t have to go through the challenges of parallel parenting with a narcissist alone.

I understand the importance of a strong support system, which is why I run a dedicated Facebook support group for parents facing similar situations.

In this community, we share advice, ask questions, and vent about our experiences.

Together, we can offer emotional support and practical guidance to help you through the tough times and celebrate your successes.

Join here!

Professional Help and Therapy Options

Again, therapy is an amazing option when it comes to managing the stress and emotional toll of parallel parenting with a narcissist.

Many therapists offer phone or video sessions, so you don’t have to worry about squeezing appointments into your busy schedule – or leaving your home!

And if you don’t think therapy will fit into your budget, look for therapists who offer low-cost therapy sessions or group therapy sessions.

Your mental health is worth it!

Take a Listen:

Parallel Parenting – Calming the Chaos

Co-parenting with a narcissist is challenging, but it’s not impossible.

By implementing parallel parenting strategies, you can protect your child’s well-being and your own sanity!

There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to parallel parenting, but this guide will get you started on a more peaceful co-parenting journey.

And remember that you’re not alone! There are tons of resources out there to help you out.

What are your experiences trying to co-parent with someone who is narcissistic? What are you struggling with? Share your story 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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