This article is written as a practical guide for stopping your children from being brain-washed out of your life by a narcissistic ex-spouse. Oftentimes, in order to punish their ex-partner, a narcissist will manipulate the children by mind control techniques, masterfully implemented to convince the children that the non-narcissistic parent deserves to be disrespected, abused, and rejected. Why this happens has been addressed in another article I wrote: What Causes Attachment Based Parental Alienation in Narcissistic Relationships?
If you are the targeted parent, you need to figure out how to proceed, with respect to your relationship with your children. Here is a list of suggestions you can implement to try and change the dynamics of the relationship with your children:
Hang around with people who treat you with respect. One thing your children need to witness is something other than what the other parent has presented to them – that you are to be disrespected and disparaged. In order to influence your children, let them see that you are a respected person. This will help them realize the only person who disrespects you is their other parent (and his/her minions.)
Display an aloof demeanor. Do this when your children seem to be rejecting you. Don’t let them feel any energy of desperation on your part. They have been trained by their other parent to capitalize on weakness. Don’t’ give them anything to capitalize on. If you can act as if you don’t need their approval you will be that much ahead of the game. This will confuse your children because they have been conditioned to believe that they can manipulate you with your weak areas.
Connect emotionally with your children. I know this seems contradictory to the previous suggestion, but it isn’t. Connecting emotionally is something the narcissistic parent is limited at or incapable of. In the other parent’s world, your children are merely objects to be manipulated and used to generate “supply” from, and what better supply than that of hurting their ex-spouse, by depriving him/her of the enjoyment of parenthood.
You can connect emotionally to your children with attunement and resonance. I describe this process in an article I wrote entitled: When your Loved One Won’t Connect to you Emotionally. Your children will only experience true connection with people who are capable of it. Narcissists, are basically devoid of this ability; at best, they are inadequate.
Create an alliance with your oldest child. Usually, the oldest child gets manipulated away from you first, and then, together with the other parent, the other children may follow suit. The best way to prevent this from occurring is to keep the oldest child aligned with you. You do not do this by talking bad about the other parent or being narcissistic yourself, you do this by wooing. How does a person get wooed? You do this by being there and caring about him/her; by meeting your child’s felt needs; by asking his/her opinion and showing empathy, concern, and genuine love for this child. This is not to say that you ignore the other children, no, not at all. This is just to say, be intentional and when you see an open door, walk through.
Be happy. Your kids are not going to want to hang around with a depressed person. Even if you don’t really feel happy, and even if you are downright miserable, pretend. Act as if. Just focus on things in your life that you can be grateful for and enjoy, and then try to do the things you enjoy. If possible, do them with your children. For instance, if you like to garden, do that. If you like to cook, then cook. Play music; sing; dance. Do happy things and exude happy energy. A narcissist who is full of hatred and anger will exude negative energy – most of the time. Be a contrast to this, by radiating positivity. I don’t mean to be a Pollyanna, but I do mean to be realistically happy.
Refuse to need anyone’s approval. This is both hard and simple to do. Be resolute about this. Your children do not need to feel you needing their approval, period. When your kids are being brain-washed to reject you, the last thing they need to feel is that you need their approval. This will give all your power away. You need to be personally empowered to win this battle. It is a psychological battle and you need to remain psychologically prepared. This means, be mentally strong and emotionally healthy. Remind yourself that your power does not reside in any other person, only yourself.
Remind yourself that you are the parent. Don’t ever forget this. Also, remind your children of that same fact. Even if your ex is convinced that you are not worthy of being a parent and even if he’s/she’s managed to persuade the children into relegating you to a lowered position, refuse to cooperate. Maintain a no-nonsense attitude that you are in charge. Do this no matter what. Remember it’s all in your energy. Remind yourself to generate “parent” energy, rather than “sibling” energy. (I have often seen many parents acting like one of the siblings rather than like a parent in these situations.}
Don’t talk bad about the other parent. You don’t want to put your children in the position of having to defend the other parent. The best way to avoid that is to avoid attacking him/her. Act as if you believe it’s important for your children to love and respect their other parent, even if you hate him/her yourself. If your children want to complain about their other parent, simply listen to them and validate their feelings. Use reflective listening and try to encourage them to talk about their own experiences with the other parent. Remain neutral and simply listen and provide healthy feedback.
Educate your children. If your children are behaving poorly toward you, each other, or anyone else, remind them that abusive behavior is unacceptable and that it is your job to teach them right from wrong. As a parent it is important for you to equip your children for adulthood. Teach them how to be respectful, kind, non-abusive, and empathic. This includes their attitude. If your children are displaying any sort of disrespectful attitude, make sure you directly call it out and educate them on the importance of developing appropriate character. Let them no that under no circumstances are you going to overlook disrespect of any kind.
Document evidence of PAS and seek effective legal counsel. Record any evidence of parental alienation and psychological abuse and manipulation you know about that is perpetrated on your children. You will need legal help to maintain custody of your children. Find a good attorney who understands divorce from a narcissist. If your child tells you that the other parent was talking negatively about you to them or to someone else, add that to your documentation, include as much detail as you can, including dates and times.
For further information on the topic, please email me at [email protected] and I will provide link to new guidebook on the topic.