I constantly had to tell my mother she was perfect to keep her happy

Daughter of a narcissist

Our family is supposed to be our safe place, our secure base off which to bounce into adulthood and explore the world. Our parents are supposed to nurture our confidence, self esteem, identity and independence.

Sadly, children of narcissists experience none of this and instead are left with feelings of inferiority, worthlessness, fear, insecurity, shame and anxiety.

How can a parent do that to their child?

Narcissism evolves in childhood out of trauma which impacts their internal working model (how they see themselves, others and the world).  They develop a disorganised avoidant attachment style which means they see themselves as inadequate, alone and therefore must take control of others.  They see others as threatening and inconsistent. 

Even their own

If you were raised by a narcissist or you are concerned your children’s other parent may be narcissistic, you may recognise these behaviours:

  • the parent creates a dependency so that the child meets all of their needs 
  • they need everyone to think they and the family were perfect
  • the child gets the blame for everything
  • the child never feels appreciated or like they have any support
  • the parent controls every aspect of their life including friends and choices
  • they feel they can never do anything right
  • there is a constant fear of violence (verbal or physical)
  • they live in fear of making the parent angry
  • they are offered no protection from life or others
  • they have no privacy
I work with parents who are trying to co-parent with a narcissistic ex as well as adult children of narcissistic parents and the themes are the same.
  • the narcissist parent sees their child as an extension of themselves
  • they attempt to control their child to make them "perfect"
  • they are unable to meet the emotional needs of their children
  • they cannot focus on nor comprehend the emotions of their children
  • to the outside world they seem "close" and a caring parent
  • they have a distorted view of value
  • children will be idealised and then discarded sometimes rapidly
  • they will play siblings off against one other to vie for the narcissists attention
  • children blame the non narcissist parent for the flaws of the narcissist ("you made them xx"
  • they teach their children maladaptive behaviours to interact with others
  • they live vicariously through their children
  • they will force children to side with them in arguments and especially during/after divorce

Long Term Impact

In my practice, adult children present with poor self identity, lack of confidence and belief in themselves, low self worth, grief and shame.

In addition they often have poor boundaries and lack assertiveness and so many end up in abusive relationships where they live out the same dynamics. This can further exacerbate their feelings of worthlessness and shame.  

I also work with parents who identify their ex as being narcissistic and are either struggling to co-parent or concerned about how to protect their children.

Through our work together we are able to address both the present day reality of trauma, anxiety and the continued power and control dynamic as well as heal those childhood wounds to close out this painful cycle once and for all.


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