Watching Our Children Cope with Narcissist Abuse
One of the most difficult pains to endure as a parent is to watch our children’s other parent totally abuse, ignore, criticize, abandon, reject or otherwise disappoint our children. We know that our children are innocent in who their parents are. And as we, the adults, learn about emotional abuse and narcissism, we still struggle, even though we possess analytical abilities and some harsh life experience. Our children are even more poorly equipped than we are to manage the terrain of a narcissistic relationship.
Children have no understanding of the concepts of cognitive dissonance, gas lighting, entitlement, confabulating, triggers, narcissistic wounds, or other complex issues surrounding involvement with an emotional abuser. Even though we study, seek therapy, and practice new strategies, we are at a loss when it comes to helping our children with these same dynamics.
Many times those in the helping profession, including ministers, priests, pastors, and therapists, do not know how to advise us; or, even worse, provide us with poor guidance that hurts rather than helps the situation.
If this is your circumstance, here are some helpful interventions you can practice in your own life and home with your children:
Be a strong parent. This includes, having strong energy, not portraying a victim mentality, creating and maintaining solid boundaries with the other parent, and constantly being positive. This “strong energy” approach will help your children feel stable and secure as they navigate the difficult terrain of having a narcissistic parent. Think of yourself as an anchor; or better yet, think of yourself as a strong, metal, reinforced fortress for your children to find safety in.
Be an honest parent. Do not lie to your children, live in La La Land (or give the appearance that you do,) or bury your head in the sand. Talk to your children, at appropriate age level, regarding the issues of life.
Demonstrate a positive outlook. Help encourage your children to feel positive about their lives. Come across with an attitude that “the glass is half full.” Help your children look at life from a place of resilience and gratitude. Point out the good things in your own life. Let your children find joy in your home and in their relationship with you. The more you present a positive outlook, the more hopeful your children will feel in general.
Teach your children respect. Even for the other parent. Tell them that good character involves having integrity and treating all people with dignity, whether or not they deserve it. This will have a boomerang effect in that the children are also being taught the importance of respecting you, as well, without you having to tell them that in so many words.
Play interference when necessary. If you see the other parent (or other narcissistic person) emotionally abuse or neglect your children, step in and confront the situation immediately. Do not walk on eggshells or teach your children to walk on eggshells. Let your children feel your energy (point one above) and rest assured that you do not put up with abuse – either toward yourself or toward your children.
Check your attitude. No matter what you go through, or what your children go through, be sure and demonstrate a healthy attitude, one that resonates with courage, prudence, and good humor. That is to say, be strong, wise, and funny (as opposed to weak, foolish, and gloomy.)
Eliminate drama. Being in a relationship with a narcissist engenders lots of drama. Have enough self-control to resist the temptation to feed in to it, or to create your own for that matter. While, drama makes life somewhat interesting, when it involves narcissism it can be very toxic. Make an intentional decision to refrain from creating your own drama or being sucked into the vortex of narcissistic drama.
Stay out of the cesspool. Narcissists always want to invite you to join them in their mire. Do not step into their mess by accepting their invitation to do so. As much as is physically possible on your end, don’t allow your children to join them there either. Teach them (and yourself) the concept of “observe, don’t absorb.”
Live one day at a time. This is the best advice ever. This gives you permission to start each day with a clean slate. You can wake up in the morning and remind yourself that today is all you have. There are no guarantees for tomorrow. Live this day well. Don’t dwell on the mistakes of the past, nor” future trip” about the worries of tomorrow. Take this day as it comes and live it fully.
No matter what interventions you use, be sensible and realize you are your child’s most consistent role-model. As you show them how to be around a narcissist, they will emulate you. Be a difference maker in their lives, teaching them how to cope with all types of circumstances and personalities. Remember, it isn’t what happens to us that defines us, it’s what we do with what happens to us that makes all the difference in the world.
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Stines, S. (2017). Watching Our Children Cope with Narcissist Abuse. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 23, 2018, from https://pro.psychcentral.com/recovery-expert/2017/05/watching-our-children-cope-with-narcissist-abuse/