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Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents

What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a personality disorder in which a person has an inflated sense of self-importance as well as an intense preoccupation with themselves.

The hallmarks of Narcissistic Personality Disorder include grandiosity, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration. People with this condition are frequently described as arrogant, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding. They may also concentrate on grandiose fantasies (e.g. their own success, beauty, brilliance) and may be convinced that they deserve special treatment. These characteristics typically begin in early adulthood and must be consistently evident in multiple contexts, such as at work and in relationships.

People with narcissistic personality disorder believe they are superior or special, and often try to associate with other people they believe are unique or gifted in some way. This association enhances their self-esteem, which is typically quite fragile underneath the surface. Individuals with NPD seek excessive admiration and attention in order to know that others think highly of them. Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder have difficulty tolerating criticism or defeat and may be left feeling humiliated or empty when they experience an “injury” such as criticism or rejection.

What Are The Symptoms Of Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

The symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder include the following:

  • A grandiose sense of self-importance (may be shown as an exaggeration of abilities and talents, expectation that he or she will be seen as superior to all others).
  • Is obsessed with him- or herself.
  • Goals are almost always selfish and self-motivated.
  • Has troubles with healthy, normal relationships.
  • Becomes furious if criticized.
  • Has fantasies of unbound success, power, intelligence, love, and beauty.
  • Believes that he or she is unique and special, and therefore should only hang out with other special, high-status people.
  • Requires extreme admiration for everything.
  • Feels entitled – has unreasonable expectations of special treatment.
  • Takes advantage of others to further his or her own needs.
  • Has zero empathy – cannot (or will not) recognize the feelings of others.
  • May be envious of others or believe that others are envious of him or her.
  • Behaves arrogantly, haughtily.

Children of Narcissists:

People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder who have children open their children up to a WORLD of damage and child abuse. Generally, Narcissistic Parents are possessively close to their children when they are small – their children are a source of self-esteem. Parents with NPD are unable to truly love their own children – they are simply a means for attention from others.

When their children grow to become more independent, the narcissistic parent may feel jealous or envious of the child.

While there are many ways in which a Narcissistic Parent abuses his or her child, there are times that a Narcissistic Parent is kind. This makes the abuse harder to handle for children of Narcissistic Parents – the child knows that the underlying tension means that one wrong move means that things will go wrong and the Narcissistic Parent may fly into a Narcissistic Rage.

Children of Narcissistic Parents must adhere to the agenda of the Narcissistic Parent for their lives to be stable. Asserting their feelings, their rights, or their thoughts can lead to much bigger problems. These children of Narcissistic Parents learn that their feelings are invalid, unimportant, and inconsequential. They often stifle all feelings to keep the peace in the house.

When a Narcissistic Parent is kind, the child learns that this kindness comes with an agenda, with strings attached. Generally, the strings include guilt or a feeling of being beholden to their Narcissistic Parent, “If I do this for you, you OWE me,” is a common behavior of Narcissistic Parents. The child is exposed to conditional – or love that requires criteria – love.

One of the problems with being a child of a narcissist is that it takes years for the children to figure out that their parent isn’t quite right in the head. By this time, these children are simply doing everything they can to please the impossible-to-please parent. It takes years to understand that the parenting they got was both wrong and abusive.

Young children of narcissists learn that everything they do is a reflection on the parent, which means that the child must fit into the intended personality and behavioral mold. These children experience tremendous anxiety as they must continually push aside their own personality to please the parent and provide the mirror image the parent so desperately requires. If these children fail to comply with the narcissist’s wishes or try to set their own goals for their life,  the children will be overtly-punished, frozen out, or avoided for hours, days, or even weeks depending on their perceived transgression against the narcissistic parent.

Children feel their narcissistic parent as unpredictable and confusing, especially considering narcissists are awfully challenging for even adults to understand. Try to imagine how the narcissist in a child – because children can’t really understand the narcissist’s interpersonal stunts, these children often internalize shame, believing that they are the problem. This shame turns to anger inside the child and dreadfully impact’s self-esteem. The bond between the narcissistic parent and child is weak. The child doesn’t feel loved consistently as he or she is only measured by the yardstick of the parent’s actions and reactions.

As narcissists see themselves as perfect, they usually completely believe that they are doing the best as parents; that any resistance or negativity on the part of the child is simply the “child being ungrateful.”

Unfortunately for these children, it’s often years or decades later, their lives as a child of a narcissist begin to make sense. Friends and partners often see the crazy parenting of a narcissist, which helps a child get a reality check. After all, you don’t know your parent is messed up until you see the way other people’s family behave.

Narcissistic Parent Glossary And Terms:

Narcissistic Attachment: the belief that the child of a narcissist exists only for the benefit of the parent, such as a particular status.

Parentification: the expectation that a child must care for his/her parent, siblings, and household as a surrogate parent. This causes the child to lose out on any type of normal childhood.

Infantilization: using brainwashing tactics to ensure a child stays young and dependent upon the Narcissistic Parent.

Narcissistic Injury Those with NPD are shaped by an acute emotional injury during their very early “narcissistic” developmental phase (ages 2 to 4 years old). A traumatic experience such as loss, deprivation, or shame involving the primary caregiver is thought to be at the root of narcissistic injury.

Triangulation: a tactic used by narcissistic parents to change the balance of power in a family system. For example, rather than allowing two siblings to work together, the Narcissistic Parent insists that he or she be the go-between. This controls the way the information flows, the way it is interpreted, and adds nuances to the conversation. It’s also a way to feed Narcissistic Supply.

Narcissistic Supply: term used to designate the manner in which narcissists require, feed on attention. The best sorts of attention are approval, adoration, and admiration, but other sources of attention – like fear – are acceptable to a Narcissist. Children of narcissists are used as an ongoing source of this attention.

Hoovering: Since narcissists are by nature pathologically self-centered and often cruel, they ultimately make those around them miserable and eventually drive many people away. If a source of “supply” pulls away or tries to go “no contact,” the narcissist typically attempts to hoover (as in vacuum-suck) them back within his realm of control

Gaslighting: a way in which Narcissistic Parents (and other abusers) use lies – intentional or not – to make their child question his or her own reality. A child may end up feeling as though he or she is crazy. An example would be, insisting that the sky is actually green, until the child believes it. Gaslighting is one of the most insidious forms of emotional and psychological abuse.

Projecting The narcissist has a big bag of tricks. One of her go-to abuses is projection, in which she beams her words, actions, traits, and motives onto others. If she lied, you are the liar; if she is childish, you are immature; if she insulted you, you are critical; if she demanded reassurance, you are insecure; if she ate food off your plate, you are a selfish piggy. Through projection, the narcissist blames the victim and denies all accountability.

Projection is an insidious form of lying that is especially traumatic for children, who internalize the belief that they are victimizing the person who is actually abusing them. This false reality produces a cognitive dissonance in which the child is told that what happened is the opposite of what she perceived—white is black. A narcissist may project her ideal beliefs about herself onto others, such as her golden child or someone she admires.

Narcissistic Rage: Narcissists despise any challenge or insult, and when that happens, a Narcissist can fly into a rage, spewing insults and becoming physical and aggressive with their children. Generally occurs when one or more of the following things happen to the narcissist:

  •  The narcissist doesn’t get his or her way, even when it’s unreasonable.
  •  The narcissist is criticized in some way, even when the critique is made diplomatically, reasonably, and constructively.
  •  The narcissist isn’t treated as the center of attention, even when there are other priorities.
  •  The narcissist is caught breaking rules, violating social norms, or disregarding boundaries
  •  The narcissist is asked to be accountable for his or her actions. The narcissist suffers a blow to his or her idealized, egotistical self-image – like not being given preferential treatment
  •  The narcissist is reminded of his or her charade, manipulation, exploitation, inadequacy, shame, or self-loathing.
  •  The narcissist feels (fears) that he or she is not in control of their relational or physical surroundings.

What Are The Types of Narcissistic Parents?

Narcissistic Parents fall into two different categories. Engulfing parents and ignoring parents. Both of these types of Narcissistic Parents are incredibly damaging to their children.

The Engulfing Parents: are Narcissistic Parents who see no boundaries between themselves and their children. Children are seen as an extension of the parent – not as another person. For babies and toddlers, this is okay – small children don’t often see themselves as separate from their parents anyway.

An engulfing parent uses tactics like Parentification, Infantilization, and Triangulation (see Glossary above) to keep the child close. This type of narcissistic parent will ignore all boundaries as a child ages, seeing no problem asking overly personal questions, reading the child’s emails and personal stories.

The Ignoring Parents: are Narcissistic Parents who don’t actually care much about their children. Unlike Engulfing Parents, an Ignoring Parent sees the boundary between themselves and their child and has no interest in their child.

This can be extremely confusing and bewildering as the child grows to feel unloved, uncared for, hindering future relationships for this child. Often, an Ignoring Parent doesn’t even bother helping a child with physical cleanliness, teaching hygiene, or helping with school work.

The Flamboyant-Extrovert: This is the mother about whom movies are made. She’s a public entertainer, loved by the masses, but secretly feared by her partners and children. She’s is all about performing. She’s noticeable, flashy, fun and “out there.” Some love her but you despise the masquerade she performs for the world. You know that you don’t really matter to her and her show, except in how you make her look to the rest of the world.

The Accomplishment-Oriented: To the accomplishment-oriented mother, what you achieve in your life is paramount. Success depends on what you do, not who you are. This mom is about grades, best colleges, and pertinent degrees. But… if you don’t accomplish what she thinks you should, she is deeply embarrassed and may even respond with fury and rage.

The Psychosomatic: The psychosomatic mother uses illness and aches and pains to manipulate others, to get her way, and to focus attention on herself. She cares little for those around her. The way to get attention from this kind of mother is to take care of her. This kind of mother uses illness to escape from her own feelings or from having to deal with difficulties in life. You cannot be sicker than her. She will up the ante.

The Addicted: A parent with a substance abuse issue will always seem narcissistic as the addiction will speak louder than anything else. Sometimes when the addict sobers up the narcissism seems less… but not always. The bottle or drug of choice will always come before the child.

The Secretly Mean: The secretly mean mother does not want others to know that she is abusive to her children. She will have a public self and a private self, which are quite different. These mothers can be kind and loving in public but are abusive and cruel at home. The unpredictable, opposite messages to the child are crazy-making.

The Emotionally Needy: While all narcissistic mothers are emotionally needy, this mother shows the characteristic more openly than others. This is the mother you have to emotionally take care of which is a losing proposition to the child. The child’s feelings are neglected and the child is unlikely to receive the same nurturance that he or she is expected to provide for the parent.

Family Dynamics In Narcissistic Parent Households:

Roles and rules in the narcissist family are fluid and changeable depending on the narcissist’s motives at any given time.

The Narcissist: This is Mom or Dad, or both parents, and/or stepparents. The narcissist is the family tyrant, with everyone else revolving around her.

The Enabler: This is usually a spouse of the narcissist. The enabler supports the narcissist’s larger-than-life persona, his extreme sense of entitlement, and his attitude and behavior toward others. The narcissist manipulates the enabler to do his bidding typically through alternating abuse and special treatment. The enabler is always avoiding attack while also seeking rewards such as affection, praise, or money. The enabler is often under the delusion that s/he is the only one who can truly understand the narcissist and meet his needs.

If there are several children in a Narcissistic Household, the dynamic may be one of the Golden Child versus the Scapegoat, which can cause major friction and rightful jealousy between the children.

Flying Monkeys: These are a type of enabler, often one or more children in the narcissist family. Like the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz, they mindlessly assist in the narcissist’s dirty work. The most manipulable members of the family make the best flying monkeys.

The Golden Child, seen as an extension of the Narcissistic Parent, can do no wrong, and even the most minor of achievements are cause for celebration, admiration, and rewards. The narcissist lavishes her chosen one with attention, praise, and approval, even if s/he has done nothing, in particular, to “earn” it. The narcissist often projects what she wants to believe about herself onto her idealized offspring. If it suits the narcissist, she may shift her tactics and select a different one of her children for the golden child role.

The Scapegoat Child is to blame for all of the family woes. While the Golden Child can do no wrong, the Scapegoat Child can do no right. All achievements are dismissed.

Clearly, this imbalance causes problems between the children and offers the Narcissistic Parent the opportunity to Triangulate, as the Narcissistic Parent acts as a go-between between the children.

Traits of Narcissistic Parents:

While these traits may not match all Narcissistic Parents, what follows are some common traits of Narcissistic Parents:

1) A Narcissistic Parent has difficulty understanding the emotions of empathy and how to create meaningful connections. As the personal needs of Narcissistic Parents dominate, these parents have little room for the needs of anyone else. It makes it almost impossible for these Narcissistic Parents to relate to the feelings and meet the physical and emotional needs of their children.

2) A Narcissistic Parent owns the successes of his or her children. In a Narcissistic Parents mind, he or she has been sacrificing everything for his or her child – the child must retaliate by performing at or above expectations. These childhood achievements are then owned by the Narcissistic Parent as their own, “he’s a great soccer player – it’s my genetics. I was always athletic, too.”

3) Narcissistic Parents must be in control. No matter what. A Narcissistic Parent controls his or her children by dictating how these children should feel, should act, and the decisions to be made. This can lead to adult children of Narcissistic Parents being unsure of what they, themselves, like and want out of life. These Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents never learn to be autonomous and make his or her own decisions.

4) Narcissistic Parents emotionally blackmail their children. A Narcissistic Parent often is indulgent, kind, and sweet if a child is behaving in the way their Narcissistic Parent wants. However, the moment a child is disobedient, a Narcissistic Parent becomes enraged and cruel. This show of “I love you, go away,” creates insecurity and dependency among children of Narcissistic Parents.

How Do Narcissistic Parents Control Their Children?

There are a few ways that a Narcissistic Parent controls his or her young children. These control mechanisms include:

1) Codependent Control: “I need you. I can’t live without you.” This prevents children of Narcissistic Parents from having any autonomy, from living their own lives.

2) Guilt-Driven Control: “I’ve given my life for you. I’ve sacrificed it all.” This method of control creates a feeling of obligation in children; that they “owe” their Narcissistic Parents and must behave in a certain way to make their parents happy.

3) Love Withdrawal Control:You’re worthy of my love ONLY BECAUSE you behave the way I expect you to.” So long as their children are behaving properly, a Narcissistic Parent will be loving. That love disappears the moment a child doesn’t meet expectations.

4) Goal-Oriented Control: “We have to work together to achieve a goal.” These goals are generally the goals, dreams, and fantasies of a Narcissistic Parent. A Narcissistic Parent lives vicariously through his or her children.

5) Explicit Control: “Obey me or I’ll punish you.” Children of Narcissistic Parents must do as they’re told or risk shame, guilt, anger, or even physical abuse.

6) Emotional Incest Control: “You’re my one true love, The One, the most important person to me.” An opposite-sex parent makes his or her child fulfill the unmet needs of the Narcissistic Parent.

How Do Narcissistic Parents Abuse Their Children?

Narcissistic Parents have many subtle – and some not-so-subtle- ways in which they abuse their children. These types of abuse include the following:

1. Rejecting: Narcissistic parents will often (either purposefully or unconsciously) tell a child – in many ways – that he or she is not wanted. Belittling the child’s needs or putting a child down is a form of emotional abuse that makes the child the family scapegoat for all problems.

  • constant criticism
  • name-calling
  • telling the child he/she is ugly
  • yelling or swearing at the child
  • frequent belittling and use of labels such as “stupid” or “idiot”
  • constant demeaning jokes
  • verbal humiliation
  • constant teasing about the child’s body type and/or weight
  • expressing regret the child wasn’t born the opposite sex
  • refusing hugs and loving gestures
  • physical abandonment
  • excluding the child from family activities
  • treating an adolescent like he is a child
  • expelling the child from the family
  • not allowing a child to make his own reasonable choices

2. Ignoring: Narcissists often struggle with meeting the needs of their children and may not show any attachment or positive nurturing to the child. Narcissists may ignore their children, may be physically present but emotionally unavailable. These behaviors are considered to be emotional and psychological abuse:

  • no response to infant’s spontaneous social behaviors
  • failure to pay attention to significant events in a child’s life
  • lack of attention to schooling, peers
  • refusing to discuss your child’s activities and interests
  • planning activities/vacations without including your child
  • not accepting the child as an offspring
  • denying required health care
  • denying required dental care
  • failure to engage the child in day-to-day activities
  • failure to protect the child

3. Terrorizing: Narcissistic parents may use threats and yelling are doing major psychological harm to their children. Singling out the scapegoat child to punish, ridicule, or criticize the child for using normal emotions is abuse.

  • excessive teasing
  • yelling, cursing and scaring
  • unpredictable and extreme responses to a child’s behavior
  • extreme verbal threats
  • raging, alternating with periods of warmth
  • threatening abandonment
  • berating family members in front of or in ear range of a child
  • threatening to destroy a favorite object
  • threatening to harm a beloved pet
  • forcing the child to watch inhumane acts
  • inconsistent demands on the child
  • displaying inconsistent emotions
  • changing the “rules of the game”
  • threatening that the child is adopted or doesn’t belong
  • ridiculing a child in public
  • threatening to reveal intensely embarrassing traits to peers
  • threatening to kick an adolescent out of the house

4. Isolating: A narcissistic parent often isolates his or her child from engaging in normal activity, restricting eating, insisting a child remain in his or her room all day and night.

  • leaving a child unattended for long periods
  • keeping a child away from family
  • not allowing a child to have friends
  • not permitting a child to interact with other children
  • rewarding a child for withdrawing from social contact
  • ensuring that a child looks and acts differently than peers
  • isolating a child from peers or social groups
  • insisting on excessive studying and/or chores
  • preventing a child from participating in activities outside the home
  • punishing a child for engaging in normal social experiences

5. Corrupting: Narcissistic parents may attempt to corrupt their child by exposing them to age-inappropriate activities, including drugs or alcohol, pornography, or criminal activities.

  • rewarding child for bullying and/or harassing behavior
  • teaching racism and ethnic biases or bigotry
  • encouraging violence in sporting activities
  • inappropriate reinforcement of sexual activity
  • rewarding a child for lying and stealing
  • rewarding a child for substance abuse or sexual activity
  • supplying child with drugs, alcohol and other illegal substances
  • promoting illegal activities such as selling drugs

6. Exploiting: Many narcissistic parents manipulate or force inappropriate activity on their child, such as doing chores far above a child’s ability.

  • infants and young children expected not to cry
  • anger when an infant fails to meet a developmental stage
  • a child expected to be ‘caregiver’ to the parent
  • a child expected to take care of younger siblings
  • blaming a child for the misbehavior of siblings
  • unreasonable responsibilities around the house
  • expecting a child to support the family financially
  • encouraging participation in pornography
  • sexually abusing child or youth

What Happens To The Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents?

As the narcissistic parent-child bond was so corrupt, unfortunately, many children of narcissistic parents gravitate toward roller-coaster, drama-filled relationships, especially partners. As these people did not grow up with the belief that they were good or even okay inside, it makes perfect sense that they would choose unstable romantic relationships, too. Adult children of narcissists often feel out of place in a relationship of consistent love and caring, and in fact, may feel major anxiety about such a relationship, so they choose relationships that remind them of the bond with his or her narcissistic parent.

The adult child of a narcissist feels that he or she must cater to – and keep their partner happy – even when that involves denying their own needs and feelings.

It’s not until the adult children of a narcissist go into therapy or experience a life-changing experience that pulls them away from them from the disturbed parent that these adult children can truly begin to heal – and then create stronger, more normal relationships that offer the give-and-take reciprocation most of us value in our relationships.

Once the child or adult child of the narcissist starts to get psychologically healthier and begins to distance himself from the parent, the narcissistic parent experiences a sort of existential panic. Often, it’s a therapist, coworker, or friend who tells the adult or child of a narcissistic parent that his or her parent is toxic and emotionally abusive. Once the parent engages in fight mode, the narcissistic parent becomes furious and works to ostracize whomever they suspect of pulling the child away from the parent’s grip. Though it can be confusing for the adult child to understand why his or her narcissistic parent verbally tears apart his or her friends and confidants, the parent’s reaction ultimately shows the adult child what matters most to the narcissistic parent: his or her own emotional needs – not those of the adult child.

Growing up with all emotional needs unmet, becoming a “mini-adult,” being the product of so much emotional abuse takes a tremendous toll on a child of a Narcissistic Parent. If the Narcissistic Parent does not stop the abuse or the child does not receive adequate help, one of two scenarios happens to adult children of Narcissistic Parents.

1) The child grows to have narcissistic traits and becomes a Narcissistic Parent to his/her own children. This perpetuates the Narcissistic Cycle of Abuse.

2) The child becomes a “covert” or “inverted” narcissist who remains codependent and may seek out abusive relationships with other narcissists.

Difficulties Faced By Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents:

Lack of Trust and Intimacy: Children of narcissistic parents learn at a young age that it’s best not to express feelings or confide in others and that trusting another to protect you is a mistake. Sure, it’s difficult and lonely to always put up a barrier up to protect yourself from others, but it’s better than being hurt over and over again.

Not Knowing What You Value or Want: It’s pretty difficult to know what’s important to you when your entire life has been lived as a reflection of your parent’s wants and needs. And, don’t forget, you were told repeatedly that you were a poor reflection at that. It’s little wonder that even those children of narcissists who think they know what they want believe they’re probably wrong and don’t trust their feelings

Believing That You’re Unlovable Children of narcissists grow up never being as good at anything as their parents. Any problems in the family were the child’s fault. As such, they learn that they’ll unlikely to ever amount to much, aren’t worthy of other people’s acceptance and love, and often let people walk all over them because they’re not in touch with what they need and they don’t know how to express it. Accordingly, children of narcissists tend to replicate the dysfunctional relationship they had with their parents by unconsciously seeking out romantic partners who are equally critical, withholding, and emotionally unavailable.

Picking Up Narcissistic Traits of Your Own – If you’ve been denied the spotlight all of your life, you may desperately crave some (any!) attention, even if it’s negative attention, and many children of narcissists do just this. Of course, since children of narcissists rarely received the attention they crave and aren’t used to it, their first reaction to being in the spotlight is often to run as far from it possible. But, that doesn’t mean they won’t try to get back into it again. Whether that attention is uncomfortable or you feel you can’t possibly deserve it if you’re the child of a narcissist, craving that attention is all you’ve ever known.

People Pleasing and Codependency – When a child faces manipulation on a daily basis and spends most waking moments taking care of their parent’s emotional and physical needs, he or she learns to value themselves only in relation to how they make others feel. Such children take this learned need to please others into all of their other relationships as an adult and it takes a lot of work even to recognize and acknowledge these behaviors for what they are.

Accepting that You’ll Never Have a Healthy Relationship with Your Narcissistic Parent – Just because you’re now an adult doesn’t mean you somehow magically learn to stop craving the approval you never received as a child. And, until they do some serious work on themselves, all adult children of narcissists hope beyond hope that one day their relationships with their parents will stop revolving around their parent’s possessiveness, blame, and need for validation.

I’m The Adult Child of A Narcissistic Parent…What Now?

Healing from such a traumatic childhood is absolutely a daunting task. Having your own emotional needs unmet for so long may make the notion of recovery seemingly impossible. It’s not. Here are some guidelines for recovery for Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents:

  • Begin working through the grieving process – allow yourself to grieve the parent you never had.
  • Acknowledge that you’ve never learned how to properly deal with feelings, and begin to start working through these feelings.
  • Work toward loving that little child inside you in the ways your Narcissistic Parent never did.
  • Stop hoping that your Narcissistic Parent will change – he or she will not change.
  • Remind yourself every day that you need to take care of yourself – those needs for self-care are incredibly important.
  • Remember – you matter too. A lot.
  • You do not need to harm yourself or hate yourself. You’re a great person, worthy of love and devotion.
  • Stop being afraid of your Narcissistic Parent – you are an adult, you survived hell, and you need to reclaim your life as your own. Start by erasing that fear.
  • Get rid of that feeling of not fitting in or belonging. It was put there by your Narcissistic Parent and it’s got to go.
  • We are none of us alone – that means you, too!
  • Find and connect with other Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents.
  • Find a therapist who specializes in treating Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents.
  • You’re probably still afraid of “getting into trouble” thanks to the way your Narcissistic Parent treated you. You’re an adult now, and you don’t answer to anyone but yourself.
  • Release some of that anger. Smash some plates. Scream. Hit a pillow. Anything to let the anger of being an Adult Child of Narcissistic Parent out.
  • Learn to be autonomous – start by making small decisions for yourself, and learn that you – yes YOU – are in charge of your own life.
  • You are more than worthy. No matter what your Narcissistic Parent told you, you are more than worthy.
  • Guilt. Ah, guilt. The best friend and worst enemy of an Adult Child of Narcissistic Parents. This may be the hardest of all the feelings to fight against, but you must. When that guilt is gnawing away at you, tell it to piss off.
  • You do not need to feel guilty if you decide not to stay in touch with your Narcissistic Parent – it may be for your own good.
  • Remember that your needs are important. Don’t be afraid to make them know and ask for what you need.

Do I Stay In Contact With My Narcissistic Parent?

Separating yourself from the sort of codependency that’s common from Narcissistic Parents may seem daunting. Sure, they were emotionally (or physically)(or both) abusive, but your Narcissistic Parent is STILL your parent.

As an Adult Child of a Narcissistic Parent, you have two options:

1) Total Estrangement – no contact, nothing, with your Narcissistic Parent.

2) Measured Contact – contact, but limited interaction with Narcissistic Parent.

If you choose to keep measured contact with your Narcissistic Parent, be very sure to follow some strict, clear guidelines:

  • Create very clear boundaries. Don’t reward your parent for crossing them. Be clear, but firm. If they show up unannounced, explain nicely that you are too busy to visit with them.
  • Shield your own children from their Narcissistic Grandparent. They do not need to be exposed to their toxic behaviors.
  • Rather than explain that you do not want to hear their advice, echo, and mirror whatever the Narcissistic Parent says. Do whatever you’d planned to do anyway.
  • Go through a third party as your Narcissistic Parent ages – do not allow them to rely upon you and you alone as they need care.
  • Provide information on a “need to know” basis only. Just because your Narcissistic Parent tells you everything doesn’t mean you must reciprocate.

Additional Resources For Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents:

Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers: information, terms, forums, and guides for healing for daughters of narcissistic mothers.

Voicelessness – essays and articles about growing up with narcissistic parents, written by a psychologist.

Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Website of an author who had a narcissistic parent.