Watching your own children being emotionally abused and manipulated by a narcissistic parent is heartbreaking and extremely draining. It is a challenging position to be in, continuously questioning yourself what’s the right or wrong thing to do, feeling like no one understands what you and the children are going through.
Here are some ways that will not ease the situation but might help you see it through. If safeguarding got too big and you had to go no contact, or they still see the narcissistic parent.
- Honesty, give your children the great gift of honesty; it’s hard as most parents tell a white lie. “We have run out of chocolate.” When they are constantly asking for some, and you believe they’ve had enough for that day etc. You need to talk openly, age-appropriate, respectfully and honestly, listen to them, let them know their own reality.
- Educate them, teach your children about manipulation and emotional abuse, again age-appropriate, show them that it’s ok to have their own opinions, fill their self-esteem right, you teach them they’re allowed to love themselves for who they are, teach them about creating their own boundaries, and it’s ok to say no. Keep it simple depending on age, and keep it real, teach them about perceptions. Teach them about responses and not to react.
- Role model. Do your best to build them by your own actions. Yes, this can be difficult to start when the narcissist is playing every game they can to get a rise out of you. It gets easier, focus on the fact the children are watching and learning, Show your children through responses and your actions how to stay out of the drama, show them through your own actions how to observe and not absorb, let them know it’s ok to cry, just not ok to react. Show them empathy, show them self control through your actions.
- Anger management, express your own anger appropriately, show them how to act when angry, not how to react, talk to them and explain feelings of anger are allowed, it’s all down to how you act during and after, teach them to release the anger in healthy ways, they can cry, scream or shout it out. Just not to the person who made them angry and not to others, again age-appropriate. Show them breathing techniques and how to take deep breaths. Teach them through your own actions the art of self-control.
- Reflection. Let them know you understand, listen to them, let them know to face the pain and release it, not keep it locked and hidden, that their feeling towards others actions are reasonable.
- Validation, make sure they know their feelings are normal. They are allowed to talk about it.
- How to love, show them and teach them, true love is give and take, helping each other out, communication, compromise.
- Safety, make their home with you a place that’s narcissist free, do not allow their negative parent into your home, let them know no matter what they tell you, you’ll do your best to help them, having a narcissistic parent means they need added security, stability and routine.
- Grieve together. Let them know it’s ok to feel and release any grief they feel.
- Positively programmes their subconscious to think positively and their inner critic to talk kindly to themselves. Example If you ever hear them say. “I can’t.” Stop them tell them,” you can, you either don’t want to, which is fine, or you need to practice until you can.” whatever it is instilling in them they that they can do anything they put their mind to. Let them know when they’ve done great kind things. If they fail, let them know it’s ok. We all fail. We just get up and go again.
- Self-care. Taking care of yourself and your own mindset is vital.
- Remember your actions need to match your words if they don’t explain to the children why they don’t.
- Fill their human needs in positive ways, you can provide love and connection, yet let them connect with as many good people as they can if finances allow finding hobbies and group activities with positive, supportive people for more connection, growth, contribution if they feel heard they’ll feel significant. Routines for certainty.
- As hard as it is when you want to tell them the exact truth, if it’s coming across too negative about the other parent, don’t, things like. “It’s ok. They just think differently, and I’m allowed not to agree.” The other parent is causing enough confusion. The children need one parent that will listen and understand them.
- Raise them to be the child you were given to raise, their dreams, hobbies, and humour.
- Raise them to respect themselves and to be themselves, that others judgment of them is not for them, to respect others if that means respecting someone else’s opinions and agreeing to disagree, or respecting themselves enough not to join in everyone argument they are invited to, and respectfully walk away from those who do not respect them.
Most parents do these things subconsciously anyway, and there is no wrong or right way to parent so long as the intentions are good there is only your way. When one parent is a narcissist, we have to make an extra conscious effort. Narcissistic parents are damaging to children’s mental health. Limited contact time for children is best. Keep written diary’s of their behaviour when they’ve seen the narcissistic parent. Get child psychologists in if they need extra support. It’s hard, I know, take any steps you can to let the children see the reality, a sense of humour for you all, whatever kind of humour that is.
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Elizabeth Shaw is not a Doctor or a therapist. She is a mother of five, a blogger, a survivor of narcissistic abuse, and a life coach, She always recommends you get the support you feel comfortable and happy with. Finding the right support for you. Elizabeth has partnered with BetterHelp (Sponsored.) where you will be matched with a licensed councillor, who specialises in recovery from this kind of abuse.
Click here for Elizabeth Shaw’s Recommended reading list for more information on recovery from narcissistic abuse.
The narcissist and their children.