Talking to Kids about Narcissistic Parents

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Arguably the worst nightmare of Narcissistic Abuse is trying to guide your kids through the nightmare maze of an NPD parent, particularly if you are battling Parental Alienation whilst facing your own demons.


Is there a “Right Solution”? No. Will you be bombarded with advice as to how to manage it, all based on conventional wisdom? Yes. Will any of it be pertinent or useful? Doubtfully.  Some thoughts….

School Curriculum….

We should all be campaigning for some basic Psychology to be taught in schools, that covers Cluster B Personality Disorders sufficiently well for people to be aware of these PDs, to be sufficiently wary of them to be able to spot them in romantic partners, the workplace, in communities including sports teams, and to spot the traits in politicians and so-called pillars of society.

In the Family Context….

Do responsible parents teach their kids to lie, steal, bully, rage, manipulate etc? No, of course not.

So how confusing must it be to a child when a healthy parent condones the poor behaviour of a narcissistic parent by not taking a stand against exactly this sort of behaviour?

Moreover, how confusing must it be for a child who is not shown any authentic love, who is constantly criticised and demeaned. Who has to contend with one rule one minute, another the next, and none that the narcissistic parent ever abides by? The reality is that such conflicting messages can cause a lot of trauma in children, undermining and stunting the development of self-esteem and confidence – issues that can affect them for the rest of their lives.

Furthermore, the sad reality is that the narcissistic parent will deliberately poison kids against the healthy, loving parent – and as such the child is brought up to model their own behaviour on the toxic and manipulative conduct of their narcissistic parent whilst stigmatising normal, healthy and noble traits.

The Kids’ best Advocate

This mechanism, compounded by the smear campaign and all too often further sponsored by the legal system, alienates the child from their one healthy and loving parent – their one advocate who really understands what is going on, the one person who has their best interests at heart and who is motivated to do something to act in their best interest.

Conventional Wisdom

Conventional wisdom suggests that you should never speak ill of the co-parent. Sadly conventional wisdom has committed vulnerable kids to childhoods of living hell, inflicting on them psychological issues that they will battle all of their adult lives, hamper their abilities to form healthy loving relationships in adulthood, and severely limit their ability to model healthy parenting styles to their own children.

It is time we changed conventional wisdom – it simply does not help when it comes to dealing with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Teaching Kids about their Narcissistic Parent

I would love to say that there were some “right” solutions here – I’m instead of the opinion that there are none, only solutions that are less bad than others. I’d also suggest that healthy parents trying to navigate this extremely difficult minefield consider this – you will doubtless receive loads of opinions and advice from other people, but however well-intentioned it may be, you may have to be prepared to disregard it. Why? Because very few people will have the first idea about what narcissistic abuse really entails. Because very few people with have intentions and viewpoints closely aligned with yours (or those of your kids). Because you cannot count on any one or any institutions coming to your or your kids’ rescue. Because you will forever receive advice and warnings telling you what not to do, and very few (if anyone) will ever give you advice as to what you should do that you have not already tried, or that you have any confidence in as being effective. And make no mistake, this hopelessness could well kill you – literally.

The following thoughts may help guide you:

In talking extensively with adult children of narcissistic parents, it is clear that were they able to rewind the clock, they would have wanted:

  • Someone to fight their corner.
  • Someone close and present in their lives to model healthy, loving parenting.
  • Someone to have boosted their confidence and given them courage.
  • Someone to untangle the mindfuckery of narcissistic parenting as it was happening – why were they criticised in the way they were, why did they feel they were never good enough, why were they so hypervigilant, why the confusing messages about their other parent that conflicted with their first-hand experience, why their childhoods seemed at odds with that of their friends, why the parental rages etc.
  • Why did they themselves struggle to fit in at school, why were their styles of winning friends and influencing people so repellent to other kids, why were they so miserable and depressed.
  • Above all, kids want to feel sufficiently worthy that people are prepared to battle for them – and not feel so worthless that not only are they abused by their nearest and dearest, but that they have been abandoned by everyone else.

Battle fit

Healthy parents want to do as much as they can to rescue and protect their children who are now exposed to narcissistic abuse. Healthy parents will lose themselves in fighting for their kids – but therein lies the problem. Healthy parents are useless unless they are healthy – in good mental state, upbeat and strong emotionally, physically fit and on a sound financial footing. The sad reality is that few people exit a narcissistic relationship in this kind of condition.

Extremely difficult though it is, and however counter-intuitive it may feel, I strongly recommend healthy parents withdraw from the immediate fight, and get themselves in good shape as a matter of priority. They should then rejoin the battle only when up for the mother of all fights. It’s a classic case of “in the event of emergency, put your oxygen mask on before helping others”.

This policy has a secondary benefits – by pulling away, you are depriving your narc of the narcissistic supply they desperately need. They will not hold it together for long, and as the cracks start to show, so the kids see the alienating parent in a different light. And as you, the healthy parent, are seen to be enjoying your freedom, so the narc realises that they kids (who, as we know, they can’t love in any case) – suddenly become an encumbrance rather than the potent weapon they were hoping they would be.

It is not a strategy that is without risks – but every alienated parent needs to find the strategy that suits them, their kids and the situation the best as possible.

Are you an adult child of a narcissist – please comment to add to the debate, and provide further ideas, insight and suggestions. Please follow me for further thoughts on dealing with NPD. Upvote this if you agree with the guts of this response, and share it wide to help others in their journey.

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