Firstly let me start by saying I was a social worker and I know that we did not get specific training on narcissism when I trained (2006-2009) nor whilst I was working in child protection (2009-2013). Having spoken to ex colleagues I have not been informed of any specific training in this area up to the time of publishing this post.
Secondly, I understand that emotional abuse is taught and is named in legislation as a type of abuse but narcissistic parental abuse is very specific and does not neatly fall into the abuse categories. Therefore it is often missed and children are left in this toxic environment.
So what is narcissist parental abuse?
Very simply put, being raised by a narcissist means that a child’s needs and wishes are very rarely considered. A narcissist sees them as a weapon or status symbol and will use them to better their own standing.
Children raised in this environment will not fall neatly into the stereotypical image of an abused child. They will probably be well dressed, the parent will probably be very active in the school and they will probably out-perform their peers.
To social work and schools, they are thriving. But narcissists are all about the facade. They want the whole world to think they are brilliant and to praise them so they will use their children (and partners) to promote themselves.
Behind closed doors though, it is a different story. Narcissists will be incredibly strict, thinking that their children MUST behave in a certain way to keep up this facade. They will be overly harsh and push them extremely hard to be better than anyone else. When their child gets a good report, the narcissistic parent will look as though they themselves had been given the praise. They will talk about how THEY have helped them. Never about how well the child has done. So the child works harder and harder in an attempt to earn some praise and please their narcissistic parent but they never will. So their self esteem is rocked and they become anxious when they get a low grade.
Warning sign: children who get inappropriately upset when they aren’t able to do something in school
Narcissists will also use their children as weapons against their ex partners. They see the child as a way to hurt someone who has wronged them. Children become pawns and their welfare is not important. A narcissist will revel in the hurt they cause their ex. When their children cry saying goodbye to their other parent, a narcissist will feel happy knowing how much pain they are causing and the child will be confused by this lack of empathy.
Warning sign: a child being overly emotional and talking about missing one parent
Parental alienation is also very common with narcissist parents. They push the other parent out because they are no longer of use to them. The discard. They will tell the child numerous stories of why that parent left and make the child believe it was their fault. They may also tell the child that the parent is trying to kidnap them so that the child is scared to go with that parent. There are many other subtle lies the narcissist tells the child in order to break up their relationship. This serves two purposes for the narcissist. One: they get the child all to themselves and get to play the victim. Two: they cause an untold amount of pain and suffering for the alienated parent (and the child but the narcissist does not see that)
Warning sign: child only seeing one parent suddenly or being afraid of a parent they were once close to (agencies will often presume this means the alienated parent is abusing the child – which the narcissist will play along with to cause maximum damage)
They will also push their children away in private, not providing them with emotional nourishment, but be overly affectionate in front of others. They may take their child to the doctor on a regular basis partly for the attention they get but also to make it look like they are a good parent. The child may not have any illnesses at all and so the child ends up confused and may begin to feign illness themselves to get attention. Some may resort to poisoning their child to make them sick in order to get attention.
Warning sign: regular GP appointments with no medical reason and withdrawn or anxious child, not knowing what behaviour will please their narcissist parent and lots of days off, often with either no reason or the same reason
This is just a few examples of the damage and extent to which narcissists behave. I really do believe that it needs to be recognised in legislation and therefore social care training because more and more narcissists are going undetected and causing irreparable damage to their children.
If you have experience with anything I have talked about and would like help in dealing with it or supporting your children through it, please do get it touch at www.thenurturingcoach.co.uk