You prepare as much as you can, but sometimes, you are stuck weathering the storm and hoping for the best. However, unlike a hurricane, there are some extra steps that you can take to keep the roof on your house.
Keep these TOP 10 STRATEGIES in mind when weathering the narcissistic storm this holiday season:
Set Clear Boundaries: It is easy to say, but sometimes hard to implement. First, you need to determine what is acceptable and what is not in your interactions. If you have a difficult time setting your boundaries, find someone to help you make a list of boundaries that are most important to you. Once you have those down, be firm about your boundaries and communicate them clearly to your co-parent. Don’t think you need all your boundaries listed at one time. Your list will inevitably change as you grow and learn more about what you need. Afraid that you might fall back from your boundaries? Get a boundary buddy. Call them when you are doubting yourself, or if you just need a pep talk.
Limit Direct Contact: If direct communication with your co-parent is stressful, try to minimize it. Use email or text for necessary communication and keep it brief and to the point. If that communication fails, explore third party services that specialize in high conflict parenting communications. A favorite communication tool of DivorcePlus is Our Family Wizard. OFW allows parents to coordinate schedules, share documents, submit parenting time modification requests, and document shared expenses and reimbursements. Third party platforms like OFW also maintain data logs which may be used in Court as evidence of communications between parents.
Focus on Your Children: Keep the focus on your children’s happiness and well-being. Keep children away from any negative interactions between you and your co-parent. This may mean requesting a third-party (like your boundary buddy) to come with you to custody exchanges or having them conduct your custody exchanges for you. Children should not be present when discussing custody issues or used to convey messages between parents.
Create New Traditions: Holidays can be a great time to start new traditions with your children that are separate from your past with the co-parent. This can create a sense of stability and fun for your children. Lot of people fear any change in tradition, but the truth is that someone had to be the first to start it. And maybe it is time for you to begin a new tradition that your children will carry to their children. These traditions don’t have to be elaborate, but they should be something that brings you closer together. Maybe its as simple as decorating Santa’s cookie tray, driving around the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights, or walking through hotel lobbies to look at decorations.
Have a Support System: Surround yourself with friends and family who understand your situation and can offer support. Turn to those friends and family members that may have experienced the same types of issues that you are currently facing. How did they get through it? What techniques did they find helpful? Has one friend been through a high-conflict divorce while the other dealt with a long custody battle? Rely on them both! Keep in mind that your friends are there for a reason – they love you and want to see you succeed.
Stay Calm and Collected: Try to maintain your composure during interactions with your co-parent. Narcissists often thrive on creating drama and conflict, so staying calm can sometimes diffuse the situation. In Dealing with a Narcissist Spouse: A Comprehensive Guide we discussed the 5 common signs of a narcissist and 8 ways to protect yourself during interactions with them. Narcissists live for being right and will act in ways that make you question your own thought process. Remember your boundaries and maintain your boundaries. There is no winner in an argument with a narcissist. There is only destruction. Remember that the only thing you can control in this conflict is your response – keep your wits about you and walk away.
Seek Professional Help: If you’re struggling to cope, consider seeking the help of a counselor or coach who can provide you with strategies to manage the situation effectively. Are you more concerned about making the right choices for your kids? If so, you should contact an online co-parenting coordinator for some advice. The holidays are stressful enough. Don’t be afraid to seek a little extra help along the way.
Document Everything: Keep a record of interactions with your co-parent. Unsure if you need to write it down? The answer is you should. Some parents keep a written diary, others maintain a calendar of events, and others put notes in their phones. This type of detailed record keeping can be helpful when it comes time to explain to your attorney what has happened (with dates and context). Pro Tip: Make sure you maintain a clear record of swapped custody days, agreements, and disagreements with your co-parent. You may also want to follow up via email or text with your co-parent for each of those scenarios so that there is further documentation showing they participated in the agreement of disagreement. This can be helpful if legal intervention becomes necessary. You should consider meeting with an online attorney for a consultation on any other tips to protect your rights.
Focus on Self-Care: Make sure you’re taking care of yourself both physically and emotionally. Are you ignoring your own needs? Repeat after me: self-care is important! Stress can take a toll, so it’s important to prioritize your health. If you don’t feel like you have the time, start small with time to yourself. That may be an extra 15 minutes in the morning to have coffee and do the crossword, it might be calling your best friend to talk about a show you watched, or sitting in a room and listening to music that reminds you of past good times. Think that you need more help in focusing on yourself? It might be time to talk with an online health and self-care expert to develop techniques on how to better discover self-care.
Prepare for Guilt-Trips and Manipulation: Like a hurricane, you already know it’s coming, so you might as well get ready. Be prepared for the guilt trips or manipulative behavior from your co-parent. Recognize these tactics and don’t let them sway you from what’s best for you and your children. Go to your friends and family board of directors, call your boundary buddy, or turn to the professionals at DivorcePlus, but don’t fall victim to another guilt-trip.
Remember, the key is to create a safe and positive environment for your children and yourself. The holidays can still be a joyful time, despite the storm.