If you are an adult and have a narcissist in your life, then you know how emotionally draining it can be to interact with the narcissist. Your physical health can also be affected due to the long-term emotional abuse you receive from a narcissist. As hard as it is to navigate the narcissist as an adult, it can be even more difficult for a child, especially when the narcissist is your parent. Today, I will discuss helping children cope with a narcissist parent.
For the child of a narcissist, they have been put into the middle of a very difficult situation. You, as the adult, feel powerless but the child truly is powerless because they are limited in how they can act in the situation and have little control over the people involved. They are often pulled in many directions and pitted against one parent at times. The child of a narcissist may even be treated as a flying monkey by the narcissist, and this leads to the child doing the dirty work for them. This, as you can imagine, is damaging to the family dynamics and oftentimes the child feels responsible for everything that is happening. On top of that, they don’t know what to think or feel. They likely love both parents, even the narcissist, but this love is complicated and at times comes with a lot of pain.
First, if you are the non-narcissist parent who is watching this video and trying to find ways to help your child in this difficult situation, you are amazing. Seeking out tools to help your children can be difficult but it shows you are trying to make the most of a difficult situation. There is no right or wrong way to respond, and remember that whatever path you choose, you are doing what you think is best for your family.
As the non-narcissist parent, you want to ensure you don’t inadvertently involve your children in the chaos that is the narcissist. It might feel appropriate to say negative things about the narcissist parent, but this should be avoided. The things you want to say may very well be true and accurate, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be brought into conversation with your children. This places the child in the middle, and the middle is already where the narcissist has put them.
Instead of speaking negatively of the narcissist parent, instead choose a path of increased communication with your child on their feelings and experiences. Ask them how they feel and what questions they have. If they do witness a negative interaction between you and the narcissist, check in on your child and ask them how they are feeling and if they want to talk about what happened. This doesn’t place blame on anyone, but does allow the child to speak to you about their worries. You want to help your child feel safe and secure in a setting that is chaotic and even volatile at times.
It is also important to give your child an outlet outside of the home so they don’t feel trapped. This can be time with you walking, shopping, or going to the playground. It can also include them being placed into after school activities. There will be times in which the narcissist is so controlling that this cannot happen. However, when possible, allow your children to have outlets outside of the home.
And remember your child is a child, even if they are a teenager or even an adult. They shouldn’t be brought into adult conversations about you and the narcissist. This may be tempting if they are your closest support, but again, it is important to not bring them into the middle or allow them to become part of the narcissist chaos.
Open communication between you and your child is key. You want to let your child know they can talk to you at any time about how they are feeling or questions they have. The communication needs to be supportive and validating for your child to continue to come to you. And if you have a child that is less likely to talk, remind them that door is open and if they want to talk, you are there for them. This is just a gentle reminder and not an expectation they talk to you.
And last, be the calm parent in the relationship. The narcissist is unpredictable and this can lead to many negative consequences to your child. They may second guess everything they do for concern of how the narcissist may act. You have the opportunity to bring stability to the relationship and you can do this by being the parent who is predictable in an otherwise chaotic world.