High Conflict Divorce Coach-decoding child custody, communications, and co-parenting
We often talk about toxic exes or narcissists and how to protect ourselves, but we often neglect these individuals' damage to our children. I have spent the past ten years studying how to protect children that must interact with a parental figure that is toxic.
I have found three key things that children dealing with a narcissistic parent need to resist the gas-lighting or other abusive tactics a narcissist will employ. I'm saying that when the courts and police don't help in the meaningful ways that children need to be safe from an abuser, there are some things you can do to give them a good foundation to grow from so your child will be ok given the enormous situation they face.
The first one is connection. It would be best if you connected in meaningful ways with your child so that they would trust you. Connection is so important because the narcissist is doing everything they can to destroy the bond you have with your children. Relationships can be challenging for you if you happen to have a narcissistic parent yourself. I help my clients discover their inner child and use that to form the basis of their connection with their children. "What do you like to do as a kid, well do that with them!" It sounds simple, but if your parent was a narcissist, you were raised trying to please other people and not focusing on your own needs or being a child.
The next one is to validate your child; you must hear them out. You have to hold space for your child and not judge what they say but validate their feelings. The narcissistic parent is not validating them because the kids are seen as an extension of themselves and not as a separate person, but this is where you step in. Hold space, hear them out, and validate what they say, don't be so quick to say no.
A fun game I would play would be, "I hear what you are saying, so help me get to yes." Mommy is saying no because of "x," so what can you suggest that will get me to yes! This game does two things, and it lets them know that their opinion matters and you respect that; it also engages their imagination, which is critical if the other parent is abusive. Imagination is the spark of hope. Another game you can play is the know your truth game. You can say my shoes are green, which is the wrong color, and have your child correct you, "no mommy your shoes are blue." This is a fun game and can help kids against the gas-lighting attempts from the toxic parent.
The last one is to empower your child to speak their mind. Gone are the days of parenting with the do as I say because I'm the grown-up. We are not raising kids to work in the factories or be good soldiers, so our parenting needs to reflect innovation, independence, and empowerment to help them make good life choices. The relationship you build is one of respect, unconditional love, and the strength to hold onto what is important to them. Your job as their parent is to give them the tools in their toolbox to thrive.
All of these must be exaggerated because you are compensating for two parents, especially if one is working against you.
I never said it was easy, but for the parents that are committed to breaking the cycle of abuse for the next generation, I'm here for you.
My strategy for parents to support their children who are dealing with a toxic ex -
Read my article on how to communicate with a toxic parent in a court approved way. I also give an example of how to talk during exchanges that helps to minimize arguments by combining yellow rock with Bill Eddy's BIFF communication style. Good luck mama, you've got this!
You’re married to who you thought would be your life partner. So naturally, the furthermost thought from your mind was divorce. But here you are. You are now escaping from your toxic partner and will soon be in the hands of the family court system, and I’m so sorry. If you were married to a toxic person, be prepared for lawyers and judges assigned to protect you having zero empathy quotients. I always tell my clients the biggest narcissist in your divorce might be your judge.
Life will be harder to get back to normal because of post-separation abuse, which is very common. So I might paint a pretty bleak picture, but sadly, I’m not too far off after hearing and working with lots of cases.
Divorce does not end your ex’s reach. The mind games played throughout and after your marriage can make moving on difficult. It becomes imperative for the sake of you and your children to uncover what already lies inside us all. It is my job to find it and bring it out.
My combination of death doula and trauma training helps my clients rebuild their lives after the death of a marriage. The first step is to allow for grieving to process what happened and is happening to you. Often, this is where regrets, shame, and guilt will start to creep in. My clients often discover they are huge empaths and take on so much accountability for what happened to them throughout their marriage. Most importantly, they need to realize it’s not their fault! If you have been in this situation, please repeat after me, “it’s not your fault.” If you find yourself in this situation, give yourself lots of grace and love. Unfortunately, there is no manual on navigating a divorce from a toxic relationship.
When you are in a toxic relationship where your feelings are manipulated because your ex wants total control over you, then untangling all the threads after divorce and getting back to the real you becomes the challenge. Shadow work can be especially beneficial if you have been in a toxic relationship; it is the practice of exploring you that was pushed to the shadows.
I love shadow work for this level of psychological processing. Shadow work comes from the first time you hid your authentic self to make someone happy. For some, their shadow self came out when they got their first boyfriend or girlfriend. When you deny yourself to make someone happy, the shadow self is born. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with doing that. But you have to look at your motives. Did you agree out of excitement to get to know the other person? That’s perfectly fine. But if it was coming from a place of insecurity, that is not good.
So how does this process work? It requires honesty, self-love, and time. To process the first step, you must go even more fundamental with getting to know yourself. Let me take a step back and say you have to be ready and in the right frame of mind to do this kind of work; this is not a “congratulations you are getting divorced, now do this!”
So if you are looking to stop the negative self-talk or have spent too long denying your needs and wants, it’s time to start your shadow work session. You would begin by asking yourself a question like, “what trait in others do you wish you had?” Next, you ask, why?” Then you think of people you know who have this trait and ask what else you liked about them. All the while you’re asking these questions, you take the time to see what feelings show up in your body. For example, does your mind say you like confident people, but in your own body, you notice your jaw gets tight when you think of examples of people who exhibit this characteristic. Write about how this makes you feel and again go several rounds of asking, “why.” Shadow work is not a quick fix. In the example here, you can easily take a week on one question to explore everything around it; physical sensations, mental and spiritual.
Toxic relationships can do a lot of damage to our well-being, but with some patience, shadow work can be an excellent tool to help you get back in touch with yourself. It can make self-love, acceptance, healing, and growth possible!