Welcome to the Co-parenting Kids Podcast, where you’ll hear all the tips and tricks to co-parent with someone who is difficult or has narcissistic traits. I’m your host, Kirsty Petersen, and I am a family mediator author, and coach. Supporting parents to have more co-parenting harmony and less angst. Remember to subscribe so you don’t miss any of the episodes as they drop and head over to co-parentingkids.com.au for lots of free resources about co-parenting and mediation.
Hello, hello, welcome back! Episode two. This is where we’re going to jump straight into the number one tip for co-parenting with someone who has difficult behaviors or narcissistic traits. So the number one question I’m asked over and over and over, because this is where I specialize, is how do you co-parent with someone who has difficult behaviors or narcissistic traits? And the answer to this is a huge secret, but really shouldn’t be because you cannot cooperatively co-parent with someone who has difficult behaviors, or narcissistic traits. And the key on that is the cooperatively co-parent aspect. Because you can absolutely co-parent, you just cannot cooperatively co-parent. So, what is cooperative co-parenting versus other styles of co-parenting? Cooperative co-parenting, as you might guess is when you can cooperate for the best interests of not just yourself, but also your children. It means that if you’ve got two children and one plays soccer on Saturday morning, and one plays netball on Saturday morning, and you can only be in one place at a time, you share getting your children to the sport that they need to be out on Saturday morning. Maybe you go to soccer this week, and their other parent goes to netball. And then next week you swap over. Cooperative co-parenting means that that you work together so that what your children need is able to occur. And so that you can support each other to make sure that that happens. Now again, sometimes that might be asking for help because you can’t be in two places at the same time. Other times it might be asking for support because their other parent has knowledge that you don’t have. Maybe you have no idea what Pythagoras theorem is, but their other parent is a math wizard. And so the children are with you but they’re able to pick up the phone and talk to their other parent and get the support that they need. That’s being cooperative. It’s being able to work together so that your children get what they need. Now, this is very, very, very difficult, and usually impossible. If you’re dealing with somebody who has difficult behavior traits, or narcissistic traits. So what other options are available to you? There’s parallel parenting, and then there’s conflicted co-parenting. And you can probably tell just from the name of those two things, that one is about working in parallel. And the other one is about constantly fighting and arguing and being in conflict, and conflicted co-parenting is what we’re trying to avoid. Because all the research tells us that it’s not separation and divorce that have never negative impacts on our children. It’s conflict. So if we are in a situation with other parents where there is ongoing conflict, you can almost bet your bottom dollar that your children are going to suffer because of that. And you might say, oh, my children don’t know that we’re in conflict. They don’t see us fight. They don’t hear us fight. I’m going to cover that on another podcast episode. So for right now, we’ll leave that one alone. But conflicted co-parenting is a predictable, negative outcome for your children. So we want to avoid conflict at all costs. Well, not all costs, but most costs.
Because of course, there are other considerations. But that leaves us with parallel parenting. So what is parallel parenting? Parallel parenting is really great for families who are unable to be cooperative. But there’s a but as they usually always is, and parallel parenting requires a high degree of communication. Because if we’re not working together, and I’m over here in my lane, and you’re over there in your lane, and we have this, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas kind of approach, then the people who will lose out in the long run, and even the short term are our children, because I’m keeping all the information to myself. So information sharing is so vitally important when we are talking about parallel parenting. And I’ll give you a couple of examples. So let’s say we’re doing a week about arrangement and the kids with me this week. And on Tuesday night, one of my children gets a birthday party invite, I look at and I go, well, that’s really exciting. It’s this weekend, now you hope you have lots of fun. If I don’t then pass that birthday party invitation on to their other parents and let them know, hey, our child has been invited to a party on Saturday afternoon at two o’clock at this place. Then our child is obviously not going to get to go because their other parent wasn’t aware of it. And the other thing that will often cause difficulty then is the child will turn up on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning or whenever changeover is, and be expecting to go to the party because I’ve said, oh, have fun, which is presumptive that the child will be going. But we haven’t actually checked with their other parent who they’ll be with on Saturday afternoon, there could be a party that they’re planning to go to, or some other event or some other thing that that’s important, and takes precedence or priority over a birthday party from a child from school that is just somebody in their class. So communication in parallel parenting is the number one important thing to be able to get right. And the number one thing that most families do really badly. Communication with somebody that causes us difficulty, communicating with somebody who makes us feel anxious, communicating with somebody who denigrates controls, and criticizes us, is a really difficult thing to do well. So often, we avoid that communication. So instead of sending the birthday party invite over or adding it to our communication app, or into the Google Docs that we’re using for sharing information, or sending a quick text or a photo, we avoid doing that, because we’re worried about the consequences of sending it or the rhetoric that we’ll get back, or the abuse of the denigration or just the, you know, negative snippy remark that we’ll get back. And again, that means that our child is either being put in the path of conflict, you know, waiting for the conflict that’s going to arise when they go over there and are excited about the party that they think they’re going to. Or the conflict gets bigger between their other parent and us because we’ve not told them about this thing that that is happening on Sunday afternoon. Or given an expectation that our child will be able to attend without communicating or discussing that with their other parent. So inevitably, what we’re trying to avoid conflict is what is exacerbated, and is the outcome of not communicating these things. The other way that we fall down in parallel parenting, communication, or communication generally is delivery. We might choose to send a text message, which is quite a short time communication method. So when we get texts, we expect a response fairly quickly. So if I send a text and say, Hey, can Amelia go to the party on Saturday afternoon, here’s the invitation. I’m waiting for a reply. And maybe the other parent doesn’t get back to us straight away. Maybe they didn’t get back to us today at all. And so tomorrow, we’re still waiting to find out about the birthday party. And so we text again and say, Hey, did you get the text I sent last night about the birthday party on Saturday afternoon, Amelia is really like to know whether she can go? Can you let me know, please? And we don’t get a reply. And so then the next day, we’re one day closer to the party, and the child still doesn’t know if they can go and you know, we’re still left up in the air about what to say to our child. And on and on that goes and we may not actually get a response at all, or maybe we’ll get a “I’ll deal with that when the child is with me” kind of response. So, communication, okay, I’m just gonna keep repeating it is the most important thing when you’re doing parallel parenting. But it’s also the hardest thing to get right. Because it takes to communication involves two people. And parallel parenting is about removing that other parent from the show because everything is so difficult with them. So when you’re in your own lane, and you’re doing your own thing, and you’re making your decisions for your child, when they’re with you, and you’re just getting on with life, and things are great. The speed bumps in that road occur mostly around communication, mostly around fear of communication, fear of responses to communication, and those actual responses to the communication or lack of responses. So what do you do about that? Well, I’ve got the answers. And we’ll cover that in another episode. We call it the over communicator and the under communicator. And we’ll talk all about the anxiety that’s associated with those things and what we can do practically, if your other parent is an over communicator, if you are an over communicator if they are an under communicator, or if you are an under communicator, because one of the big tips that we often talk about with difficult co-parenting is to avoid communication if the other parent is high conflict, avoid, don’t, don’t reply, just ignore them. And what sometimes happens when you’re in that dynamic, and they’re also an over communicator is that they get more oppressive because you haven’t responded to them. So we’re absolutely going to talk about what you can do about that a little bit down the road. So you can skip ahead to the episode called over communicator, under communicator, or you can just listen right through.
So just to recap, there’s different styles of co-parenting. There’s cooperative co-parenting, parallel co-parenting, and conflicted co-parenting. Obviously, we want to avoid conflicted co-parenting, because that’s the one that has the most predictable negative outcomes for our children. We’d really love to be cooperatively co-parenting because that’s the one that has the most predictable positive outcomes for our kids. If we’re in a situation with somebody who is difficult, high conflict, or has narcissistic behavior traits, cooperative co-parenting may not be possible. And so that just leaves us with parallel parenting. And parallel parenting removes lots of the heat out of the co-parenting relationship, gives us lots of freedom and enables us to feel like we’re finally being able to parent our children, the one thing we have to focus on is communication because that’s the place that will cause conflict. For us in the co-parenting relationship, and also for our children. So again, what tips and tricks on what to do about communication? Subscribe so that you don’t miss it when it drops, and then have a listen. If you’ve got any questions, please connect through all the socials there in the show notes. Feel free to message the pages and ask your questions. And I will do a Q&A of all listener questions as well as being able to listen in on the interviews. So thanks for joining me today. The next show that we do, we’ll be talking about how we talk to our self. When our ex tells us their opinion of us or denigrates us, criticizes us, misrepresents something so maybe they’re gaslighting us, maybe they’re turning the tables on us. Maybe they’re accusing us of things that just have not happened. Maybe they’re just constantly undermining our relationship with our children. What do we do? What are we telling ourselves and how can we overcome this denigration? That’s on episode three. See you soon.
The Co-parenting Kids Podcast is brought to you by CHANGE a program that takes your co-parenting from angst to harmony in just six weeks. If you’re co-parenting with someone who has difficult behaviors or narcissistic traits, this program will teach you practical strategies for disengaging from the drama and being able to live your own life. Find out more at change.coparentingkids.com.au.