Growing up with a narcissistic parent can be an extremely difficult experience. It inevitably leads to feelings of anger, frustration, confusion, and depression as children struggle to navigate their way through life without the guidance and emotional support that other children may receive from a more nurturing parent. The adult children of narcissists (ACoNs) often carry emotional and psychological baggage from their experiences growing up well into adulthood.
This post will explore how being raised by a narcissistic parent can shape an adult’s life. It will also provide practical tips for ACoNs who are still struggling when dealing with their narcissistic parent.
This post is for ACoNs who, like me, grew up in fear, tormented by a narcissistic parent.
I understand what you are going through, and how your narcissistic parent destroyed your confidence and self esteem.
I hope my blog will help you heal and move on from your childhood trauma.
How do narcissists treat their children?
The ongoing abuse they inflict on their children has a long-lasting impact on how the child sees themself in the world.
Trying to control their child’s life
Narcissistic parents may attempt to control their children in every aspect of their life.
This ranges from the people their children hang out with, to the career path they should take.
This behaviour is often an attempt to live vicariously through their child and seek approval and validation from others.
It can leave children feeling trapped and powerless, unable to make decisions on their own.
Taking credit for their achievements
Narcissistic parents may take credit for their children’s successes, claiming them as their own in order to boost their public image.
This type of manipulative behavior seeks to strip children of recognition for their hard work and can leave them feeling demeaned and devalued.
Publicly humiliating them
A narcissistic parent may publicly humiliate their children by shouting at them or pointing out mistakes in front of others, which can make the child feel insecure and worthless.
These feelings of worthlessness can stay with a child for years and can cause lasting psychological damage.
Gaslighting is another disturbing tactic used by narcissistic parents to manipulate their children.
It occurs when a parent attempts to distort a child’s perception of reality by denying facts or events occurred, even though the child may have witnessed it with their own eyes.
This form of manipulation can plant feelings of doubt and confusion in a child, and can lead to extreme emotional distress that can last into adulthood.
This often occurs when one sibling receives more love and attention from the parent than the other does.
This dynamic often plays out in the form of the “golden child” and the “scapegoat,” where one sibling receives more love and attention from their parent than the other.
The golden child may be praised for achievements while the scapegoat is blamed for any issues or failures, even if they had nothing to do with it.
This imbalance of affection can create an unhealthy dynamic between siblings and deep-seated feelings of resentment within both parties — all stemming from the narcissistic behaviour of a parent.
Using guilt trips as a way of controlling behavior
Guilt-tripping is an insidious form of manipulation used by narcissistic parents to get what they want without having to confront any real opposition from their children.
This often takes the form of loaded language or phrases meant to shame the child into complying, while at the same time making them feel guilty for not conforming to their parent’s wishes.
Narcissists may withhold physical affection from their children, either as punishment or simply because they don’t see it as important.
Either way, this behavior can have long-lasting psychological effects on a person’s development and sense of self-worth growing up.
Not listening/acknowledging feelings
A common problem among narcissistic parents is that they don’t listen or acknowledge how their children are feeling.
Instead, they insist on having things done exactly as they wish for fear that those feelings could prove disruptive or inconvenient for them in some way .
I hope these tips will help you to cope with your narcissistic parent.
Narcissistic Family Roles
This can put an undue amount of pressure on them to live up to certain expectations and can lead to feelings of inadequacy if they cannot meet those expectations.
In addition, it can also prevent children from exploring their own interests and developing as individuals.
The Scapegoat: This is the child who is blamed for everything that goes wrong in the family. They are often targets of abuse, both verbal and physical.
The Golden Child: This is the child who is the narcissist’s favourite. The parent will try to mould them into their image.
The Hero: This is the child who tries to make everything right for the family and takes on too much responsibility. They often have a strong sense of duty and are perfectionists.
The Lost Child: This is the child who withdraws from family life and becomes isolated. They often feel invisible and unheard.
The Caregiver: This is the child who takes on the role of caregiver to their narcissistic parent, often at the expense of their own needs. They are responsible, reliable, and often put their own needs last.
Each one of these roles are harmful for a child. In my family, I was the scapegoat, and I used to think that my brother (the golden child) was the lucky one.
Now that we are both adults, it is clear that my brother is even more damaged than I am.
The Impact on ACoNs
Lack of Trust: Adults who were raised by narcissistic parents may struggle with trusting others and forming close relationships because of a lifetime of manipulating and unreliable behavior from their parent.
Low Self-Esteem: Narcissistic parents often criticize or belittle their children, leaving them feeling worthless and not good enough which can lead to low self-esteem into adulthood.
Difficulty Expressing Emotions: As children, narcissistic parents rarely show emotion which can lead to difficulty understanding and expressing emotions in adulthood as well as stunted communication skills.
Codependency Issues: The need for acceptance from their narcissistic parent may cause adults to become overly reliant on others, creating codependency issues in relationships later in life.
Fear of Failure: Having grown up in an environment where perfection is expected, adults who were raised by narcissists may find it difficult to take risks or go outside of their comfort zone due to fear of failure or criticism from their parent or other authority figures.
Tips for dealing with a narcissist parent
Set Boundaries: It is important to establish and maintain healthy boundaries with a narcissistic parent, as they can easily cross the line if given the chance.
Communicate Clearly: When communicating with your narcissistic parent, be clear and concise so that there is no misunderstanding or room for them to manipulate the conversation.
Make Self-Care a Priority: Taking time for yourself and focusing on your own needs is crucial for adults who were raised by narcissists, as it can help to reduce feelings of guilt or anxiety around dealing with them.
Be Assertive When Necessary: If your narcissistic parent tries to manipulate or control you, stand your ground with assertions and polite but firm limits.
Seek Support: It can be helpful to talk about your experiences with someone who understands, so find a friend or counselor who you trust to provide support when needed.
Final Thoughts for ACoNs
ACoNs invariably bear the scars of their tormented childhood and struggle with dealing with their narcissistic parent well into adulthood.
However, there are ways to cope and manage the relationship in a healthy way.
It is important to remember that you deserve love and respect, so setting limits and boundaries is key when dealing with you parent.
Additionally, seeking support from friends or counsellors can also help in navigating this challenging situation.
If you would like to share your story or offer advice to other ACoNs, please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you.
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Carla Corelli is an author, advocate, and survivor of narcissistic abuse. Having grown up with a narcissistic father, Carla experienced firsthand the profound impact of psychological and emotional abuse. Fueled by her personal journey, she pursued a degree in psychology and has dedicated herself to shedding light on the complexities of narcissistic abuse.
With over fifteen years of experience in writing and advocating for survivors, Carla is deeply committed to providing support, education, and empowerment to those who have endured similar trauma. Through her insightful articles and resources, Carla endeavors to offer a compassionate space for healing and growth, while advocating for greater awareness and understanding of narcissistic abuse.
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