Most cases involving a narcissist in Family Court are protracted and can take years to “resolve”. Meaning children often living most of their childhood through the court process.
This can be emotionally damaging to both parent and child, with resilience reduced and stress increased.
Most people think that the only way to protect the children is if the narcissist was to magically change their ways. Sorry to burst the bubble but that will only happen when you learn how to influence them.
One of the most powerful way to do that is through boundaries and the same is true for your children.
What are boundaries?
There are 5 main types of boundaries when dealing with a narcissist:
Our children learn how to set boundaries from us. So it is important that you recognise your own style and are consistent in enforcing your own boundaries with your ex.
A useful way to teach boundaries is to draw a circle in the middle of a piece of paper and help your child to write in it the names of their immediate family members. Draw a bigger circle around it which will represent wider family and friends. Then a bigger circle around that to represent strangers. Then talk to your child about what is appropriate behaviour within each circle. Include words, proximity, sharing and touch.
For example: where is it safe to share a secret? Can everyone in that circle share that secret? Would you share that secret outside the circle? Who with?
With this example a narcissistic parent may often ask the child to keep a secret so by asking if they can share the secret with everyone in the circle, the child can begin to recognise why this behaviour is a breach of their boundaries.
Emotional boundaries are another aspect of personal boundaries. If a child’s friend is calling them names or making fun of them, the child is within his rights to speak up about how it makes them uncomfortable. Unfortunately it is often their own parent who is disrespecting their boundaries and are simply not interested in whether they are upsetting their child or not. However that doesn’t mean that the child should not be taught to speak up and recognise when this is happening.
Narcissists also project all of their emotions onto the child. Helping your child to recognise what their own emotions are, where they feel them and what they mean can help them to be less vulnerable to others.
You can use a game such as Feelings Charades to help children recognise and label emotions. You can then take it in turns to share a time when you felt that emotion. This helps children to feel more comfortable with their emotions. Feeling cards are good as well (you can get them off Amazon) for helping your child to label and talk about what/why they might be feeling a certain way. Explore where they are feeling it in their body and if it has a shape or colour. This simple act allows your child to feel whatever they are feeling without judgement or being told to “cheer up” or “shut up”. It also helps them to get familiar with what their own emotions really feel like so that when someone else is projecting their feelings onto them it is easier for them to recognise it and give it back.
Modelling your own boundaries, empathy and respect are powerful ways for your children to learn the importance of boundaries and when they feel safe to do so, enforce their own. If you struggle with boundaries yourself, chances are your children will too. So I highly recommend doing some practical work yourself on boundary setting. If you need support do get in touch.
This is an extract from my book “Help! My Child Is Being Used As A Weapon”