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  • Vanessa Nixon, MA, RP

Breaking the Chains of Narcissism: Surviving and Thriving with Narcissistic Parents

Updated: Apr 4

Having a narcissistic parent can have significant and long-lasting effects on a child's emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Narcissistic parents often prioritize their own needs and desires over those of their children. For example, they might choose to spend their free time with their friends leaving their children with babysitters all the time or they might not allow their children any freedom with their friends at all because they assume their kids will just get into trouble. They may use emotional manipulation, such as guilt-tripping or gaslighting, to control and exploit their children. This can lead to the child feeling invalidated, confused, and unsure of their own emotions.

Narcissistic parents tend to belittle and criticise their children, making them feel inadequate and unworthy. This constant criticism can significantly impact a child's self-esteem and self-confidence, leading to feelings of worthlessness and self-doubt. They may be emotionally neglectful or enmeshed with their children. Emotional neglect occurs when the parent fails to provide emotional support, warmth, and nurturing, leaving the child feeling emotionally abandoned. For example, when their child is upset about something they just send them to their room rather than talking to and supporting them. Enmeshment, on the other hand, involves a lack of boundaries, where the parent overly relies on the child for emotional support, treating them more like an extension of themselves rather than an independent individual. As an example, if they have a fight with their spouse they lean on their child for support.

Children of narcissistic parents often develop codependent tendencies, feeling responsible for meeting their parent's emotional needs or constantly seeking validation and approval. They may become people-pleasers, always trying to gain the narcissistic parent's love and approval, even at the expense of their own well-being.

Growing up in a narcissistic environment can make it challenging for children to form healthy and secure relationships later in life. They may struggle with trust, have difficulty setting boundaries, and attract or be attracted to narcissistic individuals in their personal or professional lives.The constant emotional manipulation, criticism, and invalidation from a narcissistic parent can lead to emotional and psychological trauma for the child. This trauma can manifest as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or other mental health issues.

It's important to note that the effects of having a narcissistic parent can vary depending on the severity and duration of the narcissistic behaviours, as well as other factors such as the child's resilience, support system, and external influences. Seeking therapy and support from professionals who specialise in dealing with narcissistic abuse can be beneficial for individuals who have experienced these challenges in order to live happy, healthy, peaceful lives.

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