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The Recovery Expert
with Sharie Stines, Psy.D.

How To Survive the Holidays When Your Mother is a Narcissist

It is hard to be the child of a narcissist; it becomes particularly challenging on a holiday. This is because holidays are a “high fantasy” time for the narcissist. In order for you to protect yourself, it is important to live in reality. This is different than fairness. Holidays with a narcissistic mother are not going to be about fairness. They will be about her.

Here are some useful tips for managing the holidays when your narcissistic mother is involved:

  • Realize that your joy on a holiday is mutually exclusive from the time spent with your narcissistic parent. Because of this, you will need to choose another day in which you can find your joy. Don’t expect to find your happiness on the day you’re with your mother, but rather on a separate day. Create that day for your joy.
  • Understand that the deck is stacked against you.  You cannot win, so don’t even bother trying. You will feel much less frustrated when you understand the rules of the game.
  • You are sacrificing yourself by being good narcissistic supply to the narcissist on the holiday. This is your gift to your family, which brings peace to them all.
  • Remember: narcissists are mentally ill. Their symptoms are exacerbated by the holidays. Their fantasies are enlarged and their expectations for their children are heightened. Since you are one of the children it is helpful to understand your role. You are now expected to be even more perfect than usual. And also realize that no matter how perfect you are, your mother will find something wrong with you and will not be satisfied. You are not capable of ever being good enough to fulfill the narcissist’s fantasies about the holidays, parenthood, or your role as a perfect child.
  • Create a time frame.  Give yourself two hours (or more if you can handle it) to be at the family event on “good behavior.”  Once the time frame is up, think of a polite excuse and leave. Pat yourself on the back for a job well-done. Give yourself credit for being there for two hours, not for the happiness of your parent. Always remember and never forget, you cannot make a narcissist happy.
  • Establish a mindset. Tell yourself that this is your job and you are an actor in a play and you are choosing to play the part of the good child for two hours. Tell yourself not to personalize your parent’s comments, feelings, manipulations, or behaviors. Give yourself a positive pep talk and take on the day. Don’t give yourself away. Own your decision to be self-sacrificing for the cohesiveness of your family.
  • No, it is not fair. Being the child of a narcissist is not fair. It is never going to be fair. One way to cope with this is to remind yourself as mentioned previously that your parent is mentally ill. No, it is not fair that your holiday is all about your parent. This is where you can remind yourself that you are going to do something unfair to you for two hours as a gift to your mentally ill parent. This perspective will help you feel empowered rather than victimized.
  • Remember to prepare for battle. Spending time with your mother during the holidays feels like walking in a minefield with unknown bombs going off. You need to prepare yourself for this battle. Expect to be attacked at any moment for anything. This is why your time there should be limited. You can only handle so much abuse and then you need to leave.
  • Understand that your “child self” will be triggered.  You may feel the following feelings:  defensiveness, hurt, anger, or shame, among others. Remind yourself that your feelings are your slaves and that just because you feel them you do not have to act on them. Just notice your feelings and let them flow through you. Tell yourself that you will be leaving soon and that you can survive being uncomfortable because it is only temporary.
  • Stay in control of yourself. You are living in an altered reality – one created by your narcissist.  You can protect yourself from feeling like a victim by reminding yourself that you are choosing to sacrifice yourself for the holidays out of choice and love for your family. This will help you feel empowered.
  • Practice self-care. Be true to yourself. Don’t pick a battle with your parent. Make a decision that the holidays are not going to be about you, but will be about her. Remind yourself that it’s not your fault and you are a good daughter/son. Remind yourself of all the things about you that are amazing and lovable. Don’t internalize or absorb any negativity from your narcissistic parent.

Remind yourself that no one has a perfect family and everyone has “that” relative. Just because your mother is narcissistic does not mean you have the worst situation in the world. You can still enjoy your time with the other people present and can make the most of any situation. No matter how bad things feel, you can control your reactions and your attitude.

How To Survive the Holidays When Your Mother is a Narcissist

APA Reference
Stines, S. (2018). How To Survive the Holidays When Your Mother is a Narcissist. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 19, 2019, from https://pro.psychcentral.com/recovery-expert/2018/12/how-to-survive-the-holidays-when-your-mother-is-a-narcissist/