Holidays are a magical time, full of whimsy, togetherness, and memory-making pastimes. Thanksgiving is my personal favorite. I love the food, the company, and the uninterrupted time I get with my family.
But holidays can also bring out the worst in people. Whether you’re talking politics (0/10 do not recommend) or you are arguing about pickup and drop off times for your children, the heightened emotions surrounding the holidays can sometimes get the best of you.
But when you are trying to co-parent with a narcissist, especially around the holidays, this season can take an especially stressful tone.
Here is my tried and true advice to get you through:
- Plan early. Narcissists thrive on creating last-minute chaos surrounding holidays, magical events, and especially your family gatherings. Broaching the issue early will give you time to hash out details and involve your lawyer, if necessary.
- Keep your communication in writing. Email or text and avoid phone calls. This will give you the evidence that is required if you need to get your lawyer involved, or if you need to go to court.
- Stick to the schedule. If you have a divorce agreement, it should provide who gets the kids when. While in ordinary cases I would recommend abundant flexibility with children’s schedules (depending on their needs), providing flexibility to the narcissist signals to them that they can take advantage. It is a sign of weakness to them – give them an inch and they’ll take a mile. In other words, they will capitalize on your generosity and kindness time and again. Stay strong, even if it’s difficult. A narcissist cannot be treated as a normal co-parent in this regard.
- Do not engage. Narcissists love to engage with you because it signals to them that they continue to have a hold on you. Don’t fall into the trap. Let the narcissist’s rhetoric wash over you. Focus on providing a loving and healthy environment for your children.
- Have your team ready. Know that when you’re co-parenting with a narcissist, you may end up with an unresolvable stalemate because the narcissist simply refuses to compromise. You’ll need backup; sometimes quickly as the holidays approach without a resolution. Family therapists, parent coordinators, and your lawyer should be on call and aware of the issues as soon as they crop up so that they can spring into action if the situation persists.
As always, talk to a lawyer about how you can manage your relationship with your narcissistic co-parent. Happy holidays to all!
Eliana T. Baer is a contributor to the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and a partner in the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Eliana practices in Fox Rothschild’s Princeton, New Jersey office and focuses her state-wide practice on representing clients on issues relating to divorce, equitable distribution, support, custody, adoption, domestic violence, premarital agreements and Appellate Practice. You can reach Eliana at (609) 895-3344, or firstname.lastname@example.org.