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45 thoughts on “How to help your children when their other parent is a narcissist

  • February 5, 2017 at 11:42 am
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    Good, practical ideas given here in your article. My new book, The King and Queen of Mean, helps children understand selfish patterns in relatives and how to take care of themselves.

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    • September 18, 2018 at 10:07 pm
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      My problem with trying to teach my 14 year old son skills on how to deal with this is that I’m in a nursing home and he lives with his narcissistic dad & narcissistic step-mom. We only spend every Friday together.

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  • February 5, 2017 at 7:59 pm
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    It is really sad when one of the parents is a Narcissist, but what is even sadder is when the children are left with a Narcissistic father because the loving Mother they had suddenly died. There is no help for these children because the father fools Child Protective Services, & he has all the control of these children. There are no grandparents rights, & he holds all the cards. So, so very sad.

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  • February 6, 2017 at 2:13 pm
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    This is helpful info. I’m curious if there are resources or perspectives for co-parents when the other parent’s narcissism is wrapped up in being the “best mom ever.” It seems like the damage from this perspective is damaging in a different way than other types of narcissism in parents.

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    • February 7, 2017 at 1:13 am
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      Someone who’s trying to be the “best mom ever” could be participating in “impression management.” She could be trying to manipulate everyone into believing that she is a great mom. What helps me with narcissists is understanding that they will do anything that makes them feel good about themselves. They each have their own unique strategy. Regardless, their interpersonal relationships suffer. After all, how one “seems” is not the point of a loving relationship.

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  • February 7, 2017 at 11:18 am
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    Thanks for this advice. I know that the standard “Don’t talk bad about your ex to the kids, they have to love both their parents,” advice can’t apply when one of their parents is a narcissist. I need to help them understand how his mind works so they can avoid a lifetime of disappointment every time they have to interact with him. My wasband did the discard the week our youngest started college. Any extra advice for young adult children who are becoming independent but still have to rely on financial assistance?

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  • February 7, 2017 at 4:29 pm
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    Your article, How to help your children when their other parent is a narcissist, in and of itself, is a well written vituperation concerning this topic with one exception. It doesn’t take into consideration a court system that completely gives into said narcissist and disallows the other parent any parental rights or, as in my case, the disallowance of being able to see my daughter for over 17 years now. So, for your consideration, Here’s my complete story of how the Family Court system dragged out my case which indeed cost me several thousand dollars in legal expenses and tried to silence me. All the lies, misrepresentations of my character, unsubstantiated as well as uncorroborated documents that summarize the entire nightmare including the loss of my fatherly rights to see my own daughter that I was faced with and continue to struggle from 17 years later.

    Divorce Proceedings Part I: http://youtu.be/it1dWODjk3A
    Divorce Proceedings Part II: http://youtu.be/bnGlJcaFJx8
    Divorce Proceedings Part III: http://youtu.be/2DfzLJIezDY
    Divorce Proceedings Part IV: https://youtu.be/ormEAwOh2Y0
    Divorce Proceedings Part V: http://youtu.be/e6HZR0g6K9E
    Divorce Proceedings Part VI-A: http://youtu.be/R5-zktH8ZUk
    Divorce Proceedings Part VI-B: http://youtu.be/_KLBA7zWUfI
    Divorce Proceedings Part VI – A: http://youtu.be/Hd1mqB-WB8M
    Supplemental
    Divorce Proceedings Part VI – B: http://youtu.be/4Tw2ddoTGM0
    Supplemental
    Divorce Proceedings Part VI – C: http://youtu.be/w5y9mN4dts0
    Supplemental
    Divorce Proceedings Part VI – D: http://youtu.be/6A00kQ81bsw
    Supplemental
    Divorce Proceedings Part VII-A: http://youtu.be/MBkEI5vLbwc
    Divorce Proceedings Part VII-B: http://youtu.be/AzOIFlEizgM

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  • February 10, 2017 at 6:18 am
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    I have a different perspective for all of you raising kids with a narcissist. The advice in this article is so good. Teach your kids who narcissists are, what they do, how to react. Teach them the red flags of manipulation and control. Comfort them if they have been the target. Chances are though, that you will be the target and not them. Even so, talk about the horrible things that have happened and why. Don’t hide anything. Teach them when they are young. These lessons are invaluable for their adult life. There are an awful lot of character disordered people out there in todays world. They will make good choices for their relationships if they understand who these people are.

    I’ve lost two of my kids because my son married a narcissist.

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    • February 10, 2017 at 10:48 am
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      I love your advice. Thank you so much for sharing it!

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  • February 12, 2017 at 9:10 pm
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    What is the definition of a Narcissist, according to you, in light of what you have written in this article?

    Thank you

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    • February 13, 2017 at 1:40 pm
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      Good question. The definition I use is, someone with little to no empathy, no insight, sense of entitlement, manipulative, inability to have healthy conflicts which can be resolved, uses people as objects, delusional, sense of grandiosity, emotionally abusive, uses silent treatment as punishment, controls communication…to name a few.

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      • July 27, 2018 at 9:26 pm
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        How can I help my son who is only 4? Hes with his day 10 days a month with a 60/40 split. My ex has already told my son that it makes him very very sad when he goes to mommy’s house.

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  • March 17, 2017 at 4:23 pm
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    All well and good except too oftentimes the narc parent bad mouths and alienated the child against the empath. Its a fine line to walk. You dont want to respond in kind and the whole subject of narcissism is the elephant in the room. For example I was tuned in to this personality defect by my sons shrink when he was being treated for a psychotic break. The psychiatrist told me he was being parentified and he had a lot of anger blaming me for most of his moms problems. I have worked hard to rehabitiltate the relationship but who knows what she is saying. Obviously he has some awareness if his shrink does but I just try to be nice and open and honest but when he was getting married he questioned why I did not have phone contact with his mom and made it seem as if I was being the immature one when I was trying to maintain no contact and keep the dealings via email It has been a struggle. I am closer with my younger child but even so, with the narc destroying me financially she uses that as a wedge issue. This is a woman who, when my son lived with me did not contribute a dime to him and took his child support from me but since remarrying loves to play reward the kid when he hates his dad . I wish it were as easy as the article states. I just try to show them the happy relationship I have now and be as open and loving as I can but I have her working against me constantly

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    • March 17, 2017 at 11:02 pm
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      I love that quote, “the whole subject of narcissism is the elephant in the room.” Well put.

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  • March 21, 2017 at 7:41 am
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    This article is the best I’ve read. It’s exactly what I have been doing with my 10 and 14 year old. I full agree with Abby’s comment above. I teach my kids to be aware of personality disorders. They won’t fall into the trap I fell into. I am determined that by the time they are adults, they won’t be hurt by their Narc father, instead they will be super strong and wise.

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    • May 26, 2018 at 1:44 pm
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      I can relate and agree as well. My husband(my girls stepfather) and I have done all of these things to help them with their narc father. I have shared custody with their father and girls are 14 and 15 years old. They are now coming to us to help them he is targeting my youngest daughter and trying to control and emotionally and verbally abusing them. They want to live with us and visit him. He will not have it so we have to get a lawyer to support that will understand the narcissist. Any advice or thoughts?

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  • March 22, 2017 at 4:17 am
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    Hi Sharie, I too am a Lifeline counsellor in Australia and have a diploma in counselling too. A friend passed this article onto me and it all seems quite good. My issue for my two kids is that they have been already brainwashed by their mother whilst here in Aust and then when she abducted them to another country. With the Hague Convention and a child Psychologist slamming her treatment of the children they were forced to come back to Aust. She was ordered to lessen her time with them and undo what she had done and encourage more time for the kids with me. This she started to do but has gone back to her ways. The kids blame me for everything and see everything through her eyes. Of all the points the other parent is to do in your article I do. But they are already brainwashed with negative thinking. Even when an obvious lie is found out, I am told by the kids that their mum musn’t have understood the question properly. I can’t seem to gain any reasonable ground. she has such a strangle hold on them. Frustrated to know where to go from here !

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  • March 22, 2017 at 4:04 pm
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    I’ve been there and done that. My son is now 36. Here are some obstacles that are not articulated in this article:

    * The Narcissist will accuse you of “Parental Alienation” if you mention anything about their character, or lack thereof, to your child. Therefore, trying to arm them with knowledge and awareness can backfire.
    * Your child might also have character issues because genetics factors heavily into their mentality.

    It is best to try to limit any contact you have with the other parent by setting up an intermediary. It could be your attorney, a therapist, social worker, family member, etc. And providing a therapist for your child enables them to get supports, without your having to be the whistle blower. Narcissists are very good at twisting every word that comes out of your mouth. Also, keeping a journal, video recordings and contact records can help to support your views when explanations are needed.

    All you can do is the best you can do with the knowledge and resources you have at the time. There is no easy or uncomplicated path to raise a child of a character disordered parent.

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    • March 22, 2017 at 5:00 pm
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      Thanks for that great input!

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  • April 4, 2017 at 11:48 am
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    Please help. How do i limit the abusive parents time? How can you show the courts the mental and psychological abuse in a way that it will be talen seriously?!

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    • May 26, 2018 at 1:46 pm
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      Looking for support with this as well.

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      • May 26, 2018 at 3:25 pm
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        I have tried everything recommended to me thus far. I even hired a Parent Coordinator at the recommendation of my attorney and I have found NOTHING to help the court recognize this. The PC recommended my daughter see a therapist that would be willing to vouche for her in court however, the problem with this is her father only worsened the intimidation/ fear tactics and coaching of what to say to the therapist once that was even mentioned. I can not put her through that at the age of 6. There also would be no garentee that what she said would be enough to get her time limited and I feel the psychological abuse he would put her through to make her fearful to speak is too much of a damaging risk then to try something that could or could not work. The regular abuse from him is bad enough but when he feels pushed into a corner it only gets worse. If anyone has help or recommendations I’d be interested to know it as well!

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    • January 9, 2019 at 11:27 pm
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      What I am doing is documenting everything. My step kids hear their mom’s name and they go backwards. A boy who is going to be 8, a girl that is 10. I pray and cry. I will pray you get your answers. Now we are finding out that we should have been calling Cps when she does crazy stuff. She forced a 14 year old into getting her hair died.

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  • April 4, 2017 at 6:58 pm
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    What do I say to a 5 year old? His father lies about him and when I ask him to clarify he yells that he is a liar. The first time I had to ask my baby if something was true because the ‘adult’ said otherwise he looked shocked. The shock was realizing his father lied over something ridiculous to save himself. Then he looked at me sad and asked if I believed him. I told my baby that I believed him. How do I prevent his truth from being stolen? How do I stop the alienation of me as his mom? How do I tell my son he doesn’t have to be a sounding board for a 50 year old narc who thinks it is okay to tell a child about his abortion with his girlfriend or that he wants the money back he gives me (child support)? It is terrifying that nobody sees the damage his father is doing against all my efforts. If you can help in any way with what to say in each case to my son it would be so much appreciated.

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  • May 27, 2017 at 6:33 pm
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    Create article How to help your children when their other parent is a narcissist. Gives straight foreword direction on how to help a child with a narcissist parent.
    margarette brown

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  • June 11, 2017 at 10:45 am
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    Is it possible NPD is hereditary?

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  • September 25, 2017 at 1:00 pm
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    The trouble with being honest is that the court looks down on it. Telling the kids the truth backfired for me when I lost primary custody because I had spoken about what was really going on to the teenage kids. By validating their feelings of hurt and rejection, I was accused of alienating them against their dad. Since he was angry at me and wanted control and revenge, he fought to take them away from me – and the court agreed. Now they are forced to live with him in spite of the fact that they have asked repeatedly and specifically of their dad as well as numerous counsellors not to. Our justice system is broken, and our psychologists don’t understand narcs and the damage they do to kids.

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  • October 27, 2017 at 12:20 am
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    Dr Stines,
    This article makes me so sad, because it’s everything my mother should have done but instead she chose to go down the complete opposite direction to what’s been suggested here. So my question is what happens when the non-narcissist parent ends up becoming a partner in crime to the narcissist parent? How do I save my mum or do I just cut ties with both of them?

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  • January 6, 2018 at 4:41 pm
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    Divorced mom of 3 teens, divorced from psych diagnosed high-functioning N, shared custody. Recently, on the oldest child’s 18th birthday, N kicked him out of his house telling him he’s disgusting and no longer tolerable. The verbal, emotional abuse and gaslighting continues. Son is doing his best to avoid dad, but dad want to take him to lunch “to talk”. I strongly feel that every kid wants their parent in their life. I have continued to very carefully raise awareness in the kids as you beautifully mentioned above, taking cues from them as to what they can tolerate and understand. It greatly pains me to see the gradual estrangement between kids and father. How do I encourage, or do I, their relationship with their dad, with boundaries, knowledge, toleration for who he is as a result of his limitations, without risking their emotional health further? Either way it feels like a lose unless it’s done very, very carefully. It took me several years after the divorce to learn how to handle N with relative success. I don’t want the kids to “lose” their father, but I don’t want the kids to suffer the abuse, either. Any advice or thoughts is appreciated.

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    • January 8, 2018 at 12:52 am
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      It’s impossible to be in a relationship with a narcissist without being abused. There is nothing you can do to prevent this. You already know that since you’re divorced from him for a reason.

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  • January 16, 2018 at 7:05 am
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    Hi Whatnow,

    I am a mother of teenage children. I face a very similar dilemma…

    ————-
    I don’t want the kids to “lose” their father, but I don’t want the kids to suffer the abuse, either. Any advice or thoughts is appreciated.
    ————-

    I have sent my children for psychological help because I see signs of them crumbling/tiptoeing around their dad. I am also very honest with the children about what I think their dad is doing, but I always state it as neutral as possible.

    ‘That’s not very nice what dad is commenting. But that is his opinion and way of expression and you can decide how you would like to communicate your opinion. If you think his way isn’t nice, then you have the power to do it in a slightly nicer way…’

    ‘We all get angry at times…but dad’s way of expressing it is hurting…? Should we try not to behave this way, because it is not a nice way to behave with people…’

    I have been trying to advocate less time spent with their dad, without making it too obvious…not to their dad nor the kids…I find ways to draw the kids more to me…if you are legally bounded on visitation rights/timings, arming your kids with positiveness is important…

    I say at times to them that I hope they will remember some of mummy’s quotes about life…even when I am not around anymore…like…’People may lie…We may not have to believe, or react to them…’

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    • January 17, 2018 at 2:01 am
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      I totally understand your problem. It is the hardest thing on earth to grapple with. My advice to you is to trust yourself and be the best mother you can be. If your ex was manipulative and emotionally abusive to you, then he is the same with the children. Teach your children well how to navigate difficult relationships. Protect them to the best of your ability, no one else will. Figure out how to be a safe parent. Understand their dilemma and try to help them figure out how to be around their father. It is my opinion that the less time spent around a narcissist, the better. Narcissists are confusing, rejecting, and manipulative at best.

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    • October 26, 2018 at 4:52 am
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      This is great for me to hear. I am still with my N, but planning my leaving and my only only concern is the time my children will have to spend with my N alone. The benefit of staying is that he has no relationship with them and pretty much ignores them unless he is making fun of them. But I am here and can be a buffer for them and a constant safe place. We have the typical everything looks good on the outside, so I know it will be a huge shock for everyone, including the kids. I don’t want to be seen as the one who broke up their family or messed up their lives. But they have no clue what a loving relationship looks like. They are 19, 17, and 13 so I believe the courts will honor their wishes about having to see him but out of guilt I know they will go. I don’t want them to hate him, but I’m scared of how he could damage them with me not being there to take the brunt of his verbal abuse. Should I just stay until they are grown? I don’t think that’s the right choice but I want what’s best for them, even though I am so mentally, emotionally, just DONE and feel like I need to save myself because I am a shell of who I was 21 years ago…

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  • January 19, 2018 at 12:16 am
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    My relationship with my teenage son has improved since the divorce from my BPD/ Npd wife 2 years ago ( she discarded me after 16 years of me excusing her behavior because of terrible family of origin issues)…I had a great judge and got joint custody. He even gave me complete control of my son’s 529 college fund letting me choose a successor custodian if I die..Justice does prevail sometimes. I don’t think she ever comprehended what a kick in the gonads that was..Two years after our trial she called and asked me to come over for “ closure sex “ sex..She sounded desperate or even siucidal…I still loved her and succumbed hoping she had seen the light . 3 days later she called for help because of alcohol withdrawal…I took her to a rehab hospital for detox and inpatient treatment..I did not know she was an alcoholic. My son had said “ mom lies around a lot”. She called nightly and had me care for her house,lawn and cat while there. I even went to family day at rehab but her family didn’t. I actually thought we might reconcile..But when I I picked her up to go home any humility or feelings for me were promptly discarded..I now understand the disease and realize I was duped but don’t regret it because my son and adult daughter saw me help their mother with care and compassion. I now use parallel parenting and minimal contact..My son never talks about his relationship with his mother …I think it takes a lot of abuse for kids to speak badly about a parent that they just want to love..I just try my best to be a stable rock in his life

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  • February 19, 2018 at 6:52 pm
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    Hi,
    I am divorced, with shared custody of my two daughters. My older daughter (10yo) is trying to gain her dad’s love and approval and will manipulate and lie to get it. She and I discuss the narc traits and she hates the way she is treated by him, but I am concerned that she will fall farther down the rabbit hole and become a narc herself. We discuss it and she is aware that she does these things..to make him happy with her. What can I do to help her change her behavior patterns? Thank you!!

    Reply
  • May 15, 2018 at 9:33 pm
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    Thank you so much for the practical ways to help my child! The last paragraph is disheartening not because I disagree but because I have tried every legal means possible at this time for my child to have less time with her narcissistic father. Unfortunately, here in NC emotional/narcissistic abuse is not recognized by the court system. Everything is centered around having tangible evidence and what my 6 year old tells me is considered “hear say.” It is the most painful thing to do as a parent to knowingly put your child in a situation that you know hurts them and will continue to cause damage. My greatest fear is that he will take away her naturally sparkly personality and that I’ll loose her emotionally to the trauma she endures while there. Our court system is failing my child and many others.

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  • June 9, 2018 at 12:58 pm
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    So what do I, a mother, do when my pre-teen boys are completely enamoured by their narcissistic father such that at home with me they are regular, loving boys who clearly enjoy being with me, but then out of the blue during his access they call and say they don’t want to see me – no further explanation given – and believe his lies / behave in ways that suggest he is the “good” parent? I have worked so hard to be calm, never bad mouth him to the boys, ignore his repeatedly toxic gas-lighting emails (I forward them to my lawyer and NEVER show the boys) … and yet this is the response I get: two kids who are becoming hypnotised by his manipulations. The courts in Ontario don’t seem to take this into account because there is little evidence. I am aiming at getting a court order for counselling but what if they then tell lies about me because of his influence? Advice, please!

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    • June 12, 2018 at 1:04 am
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      You have to outsmart everyone.

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  • August 14, 2018 at 12:02 am
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    So how would one go about handling this when the children live with the narc parent and have been continually coached on what to say, not to say, and essentially interrogated after returning home from a visit with their father?

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    • August 14, 2018 at 2:37 am
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      This is a seriously difficult situation and one to be avoided at all costs.

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  • August 17, 2018 at 3:04 am
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    I am in process of divorcing my abusive husband, having been separated for 18months. At the time of the breakup I was so traumatized that I was unable to stand up for my children (early teens) – I went no contact and was able to access crisis counselling. I’m now in position with older teen living with their Dad and in denial (mostly) about how things were; and younger teen living with me (aware to what went on) and refusing to see their dad. How do I deal with the conflict between the two children when youngest wants to talk things through and oldest is dad’s ‘protector’?
    Thanks x

    Reply
  • August 27, 2018 at 8:30 pm
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    I have been going through years of frustration with my child’s father. I have spoken to several lawyers and in and out of court constantly because of him. We have a parenting plan however he’s constantly trying to find reasons to file contempt on me or threaten me that he’s going to tell judge things. Not only has everything affected me severely also is emotionally and mentally affecting my child when my child is telling me that his dad is punishing him because he’s telling me important things that are happening while he’s in his home, Or that he’s constantly taunting him for ridiculous things. My child begs and pleads to me to not go back and ask or mention things to his father because he’s scared of how his father will make him feel or might do. I have been told courts don’t talk to children so then what can I do so the courts can hear the truth and realize my child is affected with all the turmoil throughout the year’s and his father to be limited with time sharing??? Please help

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  • September 21, 2018 at 11:05 pm
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    You mentioned “Take any steps you can to minimize the damage caused to your children by an emotionally injurious parent.”, but what recourse do we have legally?
    I’ve tried to slowly increase his time with them, in the condition that he go to counseling. Counselor says i can’t do that.
    So now it’s up to the court and I’m afraid the court will just give him the time he asks for (or more!) without question.
    What can i do??

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  • December 22, 2018 at 6:04 am
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    My childs mother kept her from me for 8 years, after breaking off our brief relationship very quickly… Another man, who molested her first daughter is on my childs birth certificate… He knows now that he’s not the Dad and he has parentisl rights… Mom let me in my childs life for a little over a year… We look exactly alike, no ? child is mine… After 15 or so visits, i had bought her mom a car and gave money to help… Then she wouldnt accept money, kept the car, and ghosted me for 7 months… The car was supposed to help with weekend visits, meeting me half way… It was all a lie… She said we’d get her name chsnged and make things right… This is about the time she found a boyfriend online… While molester husband still lives with her… So she kicks her husband out and moves in new guy… They are still married, but she lives with this really reslly scary and weird new guy… My daugter is” home schooled” she is 10 and can not read one single word hardly, she is illiterate… Its the craziest situation… My daughters visits and mine were all so awesome! I last saw her on my birthday 4 months ago… Got a really weird call were my daughter was on speaker phone and she bated me into getting angry… I have zero legal recourse… Literally nothing i can think of to do? After allot of depression for awhile, its like you get physicslly sick… Now your problem is throwing up and eating, and you get a break in a way… These are evil people, who destroy everyones lives that get trapped by them!

    Reply
 

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