Divorcing a Narcissist: Raising Healthy and Caring Children

Divorcing a Narcissist: Raising Healthy and Caring Children

Narcissists lack compassion, empathy and feelings.  I think that we can all agree on that.

There is an unspoken fear that seems to go hand-in-hand with having a Narcissist’s influence on your children. There are several women who have written to me expressing concern about their children showing Narcissistic traits or that they are simply afraid of their children following in the Narcissistic parent’s footsteps.  I think that with anything, the mind can run wild with “what if’s” and a fear of the unknown.  Before I understood Narcissism, I had many of those same fears and thoughts.

Children are faced with lots of pressure in school to excel in sports and academics.  Having a narcissist parent only intensifies those pressures.  I cringed two years ago when I heard my X asking my daughter about her annual March-A-Thon.  She was dead-set on winning and ran 18 laps without stopping for water.  She kept telling me didn’t want water because she wanted to win.  I discussed with her the importance of hydration and that she didn’t need to “win” at everything.  I told her that the March-A-Thon was a fun event and not a race.  I was cheering for her this year as she ran laps but stopped to laugh and play in the sprinklers with her friends along the way.  My goal is to cheer my daughters on in everything that they do but to teach them to have fun along the way.

While I can’t speak for anyone else, I can discuss my personal experience with this topic.  In the beginning years of being a mother, I looked up to my X in-laws for advice on parenting.  I had “drank the kool-aid” so to speak and believed that they were the ideal parents who valued education and were focused on family values.  As the years progressed, I discovered that they were people who trained their children to feel superior and entitled while teaching them to hide dark family secrets.

The main advice that I was given from my X in-laws was to continually praise my daughters for their intelligence.  I learned to brag about how smart my daughter was and about how many signs (baby sign language) that she knew at the age of one.  I took pleasure in how early she could recognize letters and how early that she learned to read.  I was instructed to never compliment her on looks- only on intelligence.  They were enrolled in the top private school (preschool) in the County before I had even given birth to them.  They were to believe that they were special and I saw this play out in my X’s family.  His family believed that they were superior and extremely intelligent in everything that they did.

What I have personally learned through common sense, motherly instinct and working with therapists (mine and my daughters):

Children in today’s society (in general) need healthy role models.  They need to have boundaries and see their parents operating with boundaries.  They need praise for being good, kind people- not just for being smart or special.  Children need to understand that actions have consequences and they need to be guided with love, compassion and empathy.

Regardless of whether a child has a Narcissist for a parent, I feel that today’s world revolves around superficial things such as who has the nicest clothing or the best designer handbag.  My daughters know that they are beautiful inside and out.  They are also taught that everyone is different and that differences make people beautiful.  Telling your child that he/she is beautiful is a wonderful thing when delivered in the right context.  I compliment my daughters on things that they do that are “kind” much more than I compliment them on looks or intelligence.

It is our goal as parents to provide opportunities for our children to be outwardly focused.  There are tools that can be used in everyday life to accomplish this.  Talk to your children about the homeless when you see a man holding up a sign and asking for change.  Better yet, take your children to deliver cookies or other treats to the less fortunate.  If you see a “Lost Dog” sign on a fencepost, this is the perfect opportunity to discuss feelings—the doggie must be scared and the family must be very sad about their lost doggie.  Look for the hidden opportunities in everyday life.   My church offers little “care packages” for the homeless filled with basic necessities.  Some of my most rewarding moments as a mother has been watching my daughters get excited when we hand one out the window to someone in need.  I often ask them, “What do you think that we can do to help (blank) feel better?” when we know that a friend or family member is sad or hurting.

Talk to your children about boundaries.  This is an invaluable life tool for children and adults everywhere.  Helping my daughters to find their voice and to express “right from wrong” using their words has been incredibly rewarding to watch.   This life skill can be used on the playground, with friends or with family members.  Children are sponges and will soak up every single life skill and experience that you give them.

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10 Responses

  1. Great post, Tina. Thank you. I am a believer and having my daughters grounded in faith and Truth has been wonderful and healing much of the time. As much as I feel the influences of the world or any other negative forces weigh upon them, I know that we serve a Mighty God who loves them more and is a better “parent” to them than even on my best days, I could be. I trust Him to help me to do exactly what it is you do with your daughters, be a good role model and teach him how to love well. I pray everyday, He makes me the mom they need me to be for Him and a better mom this day than the day before. I trust that God does that, eventhough I fall short at times. HE, and HIS love never fails! Praise the Lord:)Many blessings to you and yours.

  2. This was great Tina!! Thank you so much for writing about this. My son is 5 and my daughter is 3, and lately I have been thinking about just how much their dad can influence them negatively and what I can do to instill proper values in them. So that no matter if they are with me or not, the values will stick.

  3. Excellent post! After years of living with my abusive ex and the kids all being conditioned to his rages and disorder, we are now free and live in peace. I always tell all my kids “you have a right to how you feel”. Those words seem to be such a relief for them to hear me say. When growing up in an environment with a father with personality disorders they get conditioned to not feeling empathy and not trusting their feelings. I know how hard it was for me living in the nightmare, I can only imagine being a child and having a parent who has a disorder how confusing it must be. I love your blog and reading it encourages me to keep up the fight for my kids.

  4. Thank you, D! I appreciate hearing about your experience. Thanks for your kind words 😉

  5. Exactly. I think that no matter how manipulative they can be, eventually the truth will prevail and the children will see who is healthy and who isn’t.

  6. When children have a caring adult/ older person in their lives, regardless of what is at home, they have something to compare their own life to. The child sees that not everyone is/ lives like that. When a child has grown up and gone to uni, and now has a happy fulfilled life, a child who came from an abusive situation. When that child as an adult tracks you down and says, ‘Thankyou for what you did for me when I was a child. thankyou for caring.I will never forget’. That is the impact you can make on a persons life. You can turn a life around with a few words of kindness.

  7. I loved the part about where you discuss developing the empathy in your child. That is the distinguishing factor in narcissism. If you are empathetic then your ability to develop NPD would be critically challenged. Teaching and DEMONSTRATING empathy to your children will send them on the right path.