What happens to children when their parent is a narcissist?

What happens to children when their parent is a narcissist?
My parent is a narcissist.  How does that hurt a child?
You may be a person co-parenting with a narcissistic ex. Someone raised by a narcissistic parent or in a relationship with a narcissist.
Let’s provide some education and awareness about how this disorder hurts children.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is often misunderstood. People use it to describe someone who is boastful, arrogant, and all about themselves.
While this is annoying and not fun to be around, narcissism is a deeper, more destructive disorder. It has devastating effects on the people in relationships with the individual.
It’s a difficult disorder to treat; many believe it is untreatable. The main signs of the disorder are a lack of empathy and the inability to tune into the emotional world of others.
So how does narcissistic parenting affect children?
  • The child won’t feel heard or seen.
  • The child’s feelings and reality are not acknowledged.
  • The child is like an accessory to the parent, rather than a person.
  • The child will be more valued for what they do (usually for the parent) than for who they are as a person.
  • The child will not learn to identify or trust their own feelings. This leads to feelings of crippling self-doubt.
  • The child is taught that how they look is more important than how they feel.
  • The child will be fearful of being real. The child is taught that image is more important than authenticity.
  • The child will be taught to keep secrets to protect the parent and the family.
  • The child is not encouraged to develop their own sense of self.
  • The child will feel empty and not nurtured.
  • The child will learn not to trust others.
  • The child will feel used and manipulated.
  • The child will be there for the parent, rather than the other way around, as it should be.
  • The child’s emotional development is slowed or stopped.
  • The child will feel criticized and judged, rather than accepted and loved.
  • The child will grow frustrated trying to seek love, approval, and attention to no avail.
  • The child will grow up feeling “not good enough.”
  • The child will not have a role model for healthy emotional connections.
  • The child will not learn appropriate boundaries for relationships.
  • The child will not learn healthy self-care. They will be at risk of becoming co-dependent (taking care of others to the exclusion of taking care of self).
  • The child has difficulty with emotional separation from the parent as he or she grows older.
  • The child may seek external validation versus internal validation.
  • The child will get a mixed and crazy-making message of “Do well to make me proud because this makes me look good. But don’t do too well and do better than me.”
  • The child, if outshining the parent, may experience jealousy from the parent.
  • The child is not taught to give credit to self when deserved.
  • The child will grow up believing he or she is unworthy and unlovable, because if my parent can’t love me, who will?
  • The child is often shamed and humiliated by a narcissistic parent. This means they will grow up with poor self-esteem.
  • The child often will become either a high achiever or a self-saboteur, or both.
Being raised by a narcissistic parent is emotionally and psychologically abusive. It causes debilitating, long-lasting effects on children. It is often missed because narcissists can be charming in their presentation. They display an image of how they wish to be seen. Behind closed doors, the children feel emotional suffocation. They struggle with loneliness and pain.
The narcissist will not take responsibility for their own mistakes or behavior. The child believes they are to blame and that they failed childhood.
It takes serious recovery work to get better and feel better.
If you are trying to stop the effects of a narcissistic parent, you will have double duty as the responsible one.
The best approach is to parent with understanding — the opposite of narcissism. Don’t make light of it.
Make sure the children have access to therapy. They need to learn assertiveness skills to use with a parent who does not tune into them. Put the kids first and confirm their observations and feelings.

     Note: Narcissism is a spectrum disorder, so think of it as a continuum ranging from low-level traits that we all have to some degree to a full-blown personality disorder. The higher the level of traits, the more damage gets done to children.