The Realities of Co-Parenting With A Narcissist

Are you trying to co-parent alongside someone who is emotionally abusive, manipulative and lacking empathy?  Are you experiencing narcissistic abuse in a co-parenting situation?

The reality is that the abuse didn’t end when you left.  The narcissist will use the children to continue to try to control and degrade you.  

This list of 15 behaviours are some of the most common we have come across in our work but not by any means exhaustive.  Feel free to add your own in the comments.

When you break up with a narcissist, you are saving yourself a lifetime of hurt, pain and misery.  BUT if you have children together the torture does not end easily.  By understanding the narcissistic tendencies, characteristics and how to safeguard your children you are armed and ready for the battle.

  1. Parental Alienation
    The narcissist parent will tell the child(ren) lies to scare them (e.g. “your mum/dad is going to take you away from me and we’ll never see each other again”) to try and make the child not want to see the non-narcissist parent

    They will also limit or control access with the non-narcissist parent by saying when, where and how the other parent will see the children.  They can use access as a way of trying to lure you back in.

    People with narcissistic personality disorder have a sense of entitlement and this includes the ownership of their children.  Parental Alienation is child abuse, it is the emotional manipulation of the child to reject you in order to meet the needs of a narcissistic parent. It happens to mothers and fathers.  Read more about attachment based parental alienation our dedicated Parental Alienation page 

  2. Constantly Changing Plans
    The narcissist parent will constantly try and make changes to pre-arranged plans in order to retain control over the situation and cause maximum disruption.  gaslightingThey will then gaslight you by telling you that it was you who has the time/date/venue wrong.  

    This is where a robust and comprehensive Parenting Plan comes in.  Think of it as a straight jacket!  Download our free example parenting plan to help construct your.  It will explain what parallel parenting is and some of the parenting apps we recommend using with a high conflict ex.

  3. Constant Lies
    Lies are a common narcissistic trait.  They gaslight everyone, including their own children and professionals in order to soothe their own inferiority complex and get their own way.  A narcissist will tell services what they think they want to hear.  They will paint a picture of being a perfect parent but if you join all the dots you will see that there are many holes in their stories
  4. Manipulation of Services
    A narcissist will try to use services to meet their own needs and often will play the victim to transfer blame to the non-narcissist parent, accusing them of doing the things that they themselves have done.  They may be in a position of power themselves so will use that to belittle and demean the other parent, making others believe their lies and take their side.

    It can become a shared delusion and they induce a Factitious Disorder in Another.  This often leads to False Allegations and forms an integral part of the Parental Alienation Narrative

  5. Blocking
    The narcissist will block access or holidays/outings simply to cause disruption and regain control.  Known as stonewalling or gatekeeping.


  6. Financial Control
    The narcissist will use money to manipulate the non-narcissist parent, ensuring that they don’t have any money or lying that they themselves have no money to get out of paying for their children.  Court can become a weapon for this type of abuse (financial and legal abuse)
  7. Maintain Control
    The narcissist parent will do everything they can to maintain control over their ex partner in whatever way they can.  They may not tell them about doctor’s appointments or school appointments OR give them so little notice that it is almost impossible for the other parent to attend or not turn up late which the narcissist then uses to prove how unreliable the other parent it
  8. Restrict/Control Visitation
    The narcissist will try to dictate the terms of access and deliberately chose times when they cause the most disruption to the other parent.  If they are mad with the other parent they will restrict their access.  They may also make the other parent come to their house to ensure they remain under their control
  9. Belittle the other parent
    The narcissist will pick on every little thing the other parent does, making out they are not capable and trying to get everyone else, including the children, believe that they are the better most capable parent
  10. False Allegations
    co parenting with a narcissistThe narcissist will attack when they are in danger of losing control and this can result in them making false allegations of domestic abuse, alcohol abuse, neglect, emotional instability, sexual and child abuse.  Check out our free resource for dealing with False Allegations
  11. Refusal to engage
    A narcissist will not want an outsider telling them what to do so will often refuse to engage with services.  However, some narcissists believe they can outsmart services by telling lies and manipulating professionals.  They will make out they are fully co-operative and that the other parent is the problem
  12. Strange and Sudden life changes
    A narcissist will do whatever it takes to regain control over the other parent and this can often result in them making sudden and strange life changes.  For example, a parent who has always held a good job may suddenly leave work to ensure they have no money to pay child support or to try and show that they are a dedicated parent and want to be at home for their children
  13. Family, Friends and New Partners
    The narcissist will use their family and friends to spread lies about the ex partner.  They may also get a new partner very quickly if they were the ones who ended the relationship and can even walk away from their children completely for long periods of time.

    Narcissists who did not end the relationship will threaten family, friends and new partners in order to get their ex partner back under their control.  They may try to contact the new partner and bully them.  They will likely tell everyone how the ex has wronged them in some horrific way but then refuse to move on and maintain regular contact with the ex.  They may lie and say that their ex wants them back or that their ex owes them money if anyone questions their behaviour.  They can stalk, harass and intimidate anyone close to the ex and use the children to find out more about the ex’s life.
  14. Pets
    The narcissist will use family pets to inflict hurt and exact power of the other parent.  They may steal, hurt or even kill pets.
  15. Violence
    The narcissist will hurt anyone who threatens their false view of themselves.  This can include family members, new partners, their ex and even the children themselves.  This is the ultimate act of power and control.

Attempting to co-parent under these circumstances is stressful and feel impossible at times.  You are likely repeatedly triggered and feel like you haven’t escaped at all.  It keeps getting worse.

The good news is that there is a way through this that leads to:

  • Less conflict and perceived struggle with their child
  • Increased experience of comfort, ease, and positive feeling in parenting 
  • Less negative attributions regarding their child’s motivations 
  • Increased sense of connection with their child