Spring Break Shenanigans: Navigating Narcissistic Co-Parenting During Vacations

Spring break: an escape to a warm location, relaxation, and… custody battles? Unfortunately, when your co-parent exhibits narcissistic tendencies, even simple vacations can morph into stressful confrontations. Don't let their manipulative tactics rob you and your children of precious time together. Here are some tips to navigate spring break with a narcissistic co-parent:

Anticipate the Competition:

  • Know their playbook: Narcissists often compete for the "better parent" image. Expect them to pull stunts like planning out-of-school vacations just before yours, disrupting your plans and causing confusion for the kids. Ensure that your parenting plan has a limit on the number of days parents can pull your children out of school for vacations (if any!). And lean into the element of fun surprises for your vacation, in an effort to take the children out of the position of revealing vacation details in their exceitement that will later be sabotaged by your narcissistic co-parent.
  • Stick to the court order: Don't be drawn into their emotional bait. Maintain clear communication and follow the established custody schedule, regardless of their actions. If you end up having to go back to court at any point, it looks better for you if he is the only one who didn't follow the court order, rather than you deciding that what's good for the goose is good for the gander and violating the parenting agreement or court ordered schedule yourself.

Tackling "Unscheduled" Vacations:

  • Document everything: Keep a detailed log of any missed school days or schedule deviations initiated by your co-parent. Evidence is crucial if legal action becomes necessary.
  • Communicate with the school: Inform the school administration about the custody arrangement and potential disruptions caused by your co-parent's unscheduled trips. This helps ensure your child's academic progress isn't affected. But make sure you don't badmouth your co-parent at all while doing it. Trust or hope that the teachers see what's going on, and if they don't, let it go and focus on communicating in writing so you have proof that you were the parent to help support the children's academics.

Facing Communication Blackouts:

  • Set clear expectations: Before vacations, agree on communication protocols, including travel details and return times. Put it in writing for clarity and reference if needed. If you don't feel like your parenting plan is detailed enough, take a look at The Custody Blueprint's incredible parenting proposal template to solve these issues as well as several more issues that come up frequently with narcissistic abusers.
  • Utilize neutral platforms: Opt for communication methods like email or messaging apps where everything is documented and timestamps are visible. OurFamilyWizard and Talking Parents are two popular options to use, that can be very effective with abusive co-parents.

Passport Power Struggles:

  • Know your rights: If you have shared custody and international travel plans, consult a lawyer about obtaining necessary passport documents for your child. Better yet, have language in your parenting plan determining who will hold the passports, even if you split them and each hold different children's passports.
  • Be proactive: Prepare well in advance by gathering relevant documentation and seeking legal guidance to ensure smooth travel with your child. If you need a statement from your co-parent with his/her signature that you will carry with you, ask for it several weeks ahead of time and anticipate that your ex will delay.

The Packing Game:

  • Set reasonable boundaries: Refuse to be bullied into packing excessive or unnecessary items. Stick to practical needs based on the agreed-upon vacation plans and encourage your co-parent to purchase plenty of these items to have in their own household.
  • Focus on essentials: Offer to contribute essential items your child regularly uses, but don't cater to extravagant demands that strain your resources.


  • Prioritize your child's well-being: Amidst the chaos, focus on creating positive experiences for your child during your vacation time.
  • Don't engage in emotional battles: Maintain a calm and composed demeanor, avoiding arguments that could disrupt your child's enjoyment. Do your best to ensure your children are not aware of any contention between their parents.
  • Seek support: Build a strong network of trusted friends, family, and professionals who can offer emotional and legal support during difficult times.

By staying informed, setting clear boundaries, and prioritizing your child's well-being, you can navigate the challenges of spring break and other vacations with a narcissistic co-parent. Remember, you are not alone, and with a strategic approach, you can ensure your child enjoys happy and memorable experiences regardless of the frustrating (and unnecessary) obstacles thrown your way!

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