What happens when narcissists alienate a survivor from their children? Helpful tips on how to help kids after a divorce with a narcissist. More tips on divorcing a narcissist so stay tuned til the end! Questions or comments??
For information about Lise Colucci and to schedule coaching, group coaching or to call in as a survivor on a future you can find Lise here https://queenbeeing.com/lise/
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For group support, join SPAN (Support for People Affected by Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships) – AKA “The SPANily” – at https://queenbeeing.com/span
WARNING! Today’s episode of Go Ask Angie is OUTRAGEOUS – not only am I providing answers to two mothers who were left by narcissists during pregnancy, but between these narcissistic fathers, there are literally 12 children who have to deal with it – plus, one of the mothers was replaced by…wait for it…her own TWIN SISTER during her pregnancy!
I am just overwhelmed with the amount of things I want to say to those self-centered jerks (not to mention the so-called sister who was willing to be with a man who’d just abandoned her pregnant TWIN) – but I won’t waste my breath, because you and I both know that there’s no good reason to try to make a narcissist accountable for his or her behavior. It almost NEVER works.
Take a look at this video – or if you can’t, check out the transcript, below the video, and when you’re finished, please let me know what you think – and what advice you’d offer these moms.
Before I start with my answer, I just want to say that I’m so sorry for what you’re going through, and you definitely don’t deserve it!
I know that you have been totally shocked by this horrible situation – and who can blame you? Between your own pregnancy and other children and the devalue and discard you’ve just gone through, it’s amazing that you’re still standing.
But stand you will, because you’re a mother and that is what we do!
So much of what you wrote sounds familiar to me on more than one level. For example, my first husband actually treated my oldest son like a piece of property.
He’d ignore the baby while no one was looking, but when people were around, he was the perfect father – showing him off and always telling people how amazing he was. It was like “look what I did!”
Once I finally got a clue and left his ass, I quickly realized that his only reason for wanting to see my son was that he wanted to get back in my life. When I realized that, I was just done.
He hasn’t seen that kid since he was 16 months old – and he will be 19 YEARS old next month.
Okay, I’ve got a few more pieces of advice for you before I close today.
First: don’t allow this narcissist to taint your happiness. He has made his choices, and now you get to make yours.
Second, don’t expect some big miracle to happen when or if you ever allow him to see your child – especially since you said he has other kids out there.
Third, remember that as a toxic narcissist, he’s got a personality disorder and without serious therapy, he ain’t gonna change anytime soon (and whether it will work is QUITE iffy).
Now it’s time for you to consider every option that’s available to you – and take nothing for granted. Remember too that your ex narcissist is unlikely to see your child as a person, but more likely to see him or her as a tool to be used to get what he wants.
Be on the lookout for certain behaviors if your ex does get involved in the baby’s life – for example, he may choose to disregard your or the baby’s boundaries. He may withhold affection in order to get results from the baby as he or she gets older. And he will most likely neglect to meet his parental duties on certain levels, where his needs come before the baby’s, always.
Plus, since image is so important to narcissists, he may demand absolute perfection from your child anytime he’s involved.
Your kiddo will feel a lot of pressure to “be good enough,” and unfortunately, no matter how amazing he or she turns out to be, it won’t ever be enough.
A bit of psychology you might want to consider, too:
If your child is a girl, she will need to feel adored by her father. While she’s little, he’ll probably do okay with that on a couple of levels, but as she gets older, he’ll get mean – commenting on her clothing, her weight and/or her attitude in negative ways. She needs to be validated this way – and it helps her to be stronger in future relationships. Girls need to internalize their specialness and HEALTHY dads (or even dad-like-people) can help with that.
If your baby is a boy, you need to know that he will never be able to “measure up” to your ex’s expectations. The narcissistic father is infamous for competing with his sons in very unhealthy ways. And if that’s not his game, your son will simply be ignored. Just as girls need to be adored by their fathers in order to be validated, boys need to have their dads believe in them.
I remember my ex getting jealous of my son when he was born – because I paid too much attention to him! Outrageous!
As the mom of this baby, you’re going to have a lot of responsibility, but it doesn’t have to be terrible – knowing what you’re up against is the first step to making your life easier.
KNOW that this is NOT your fault – and know what to watch for when you’re considering dating in the future. This can help you to avoid getting into this situation again.
I’d like you to consider getting involved with a parent support group, such as Parents Without Partners, and I’d like to invite you to join SPAN, my online support group – it’s totally free and completely confidential. You can learn more at QueenBeeing.com/SPAN.
I wish I had better answers for you, but I hope this offers you a place to start. Please remember to take care of yourself as you go on this journey – and don’t be afraid to reach out to the people in your life you can trust when you need support.
Okay, now it’s your turn! What advice would you offer our mothers? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below. Let’s discuss it.
But what about the kids? If you’re you’re dealing with a narcissist co-parent, are you worried about how it’ll affect your children?
The Statistics on Child Abuse in the United States
Statistically speaking, nearly one million children are victims to child abuse each year in the United States. Plus:
57.2% of victims suffered neglect (including but not limited to emotional, mental and medical neglect),
18.6% experienced physical abuse
9.6% experienced sexual abuse
26.6% experienced other types of abuse, such as emotional, verbal and mental abuse.
Stress is a Killer – Even for Kids
Studies indicate that as many as 20% of all school-aged children experience symptoms of anxiety – and you can bet that a good portion of those are the kids who are being abused at home. Stress is in another category, and it’s estimated at 100% of our children who experience stress in some form or another throughout their school years.
Stress can weaken a child’s immune system and cause illnesses – just as it can in adults. It’s important for children to get enough sleep and eat well so that the immune system stays strong – and even though stress is inevitable, they can cope with it physically.
So, if you come in from a hard day’s work and immediately reach for a drink to “relax,” the kids will learn that it’s okay to dull the pain rather than face it head-on.
A cocktail in the evening is fine, but don’t use it as a crutch with your own anxiety problems. When your child sees you dealing with stress by relaxation and other techniques, he’ll learn a big lesson in coping.
How to Help Your Child Cope With the Stress of a Narcissistic Parent
Depression and panic attacks can ensue from too much stress in adults and children, so it’s important to recognize the early signs of a much more serious problem.
What Are the Symptoms of Stress and Anxiety in Children?
Most adults have experienced stress in the form of a rapidly beating heart, breaking out in a cold sweat and taking shallow breaths. While we may know and understand what’s happening, kids sometimes don’t – and they may hide the symptoms or not know how to verbalize the suffering.
Symptoms of stress may remain unnoticed because your child lacks the vocabulary or doesn’t understand enough about what’s happening to him to talk to you about it.
It’s vitally important that you maintain a strong and open line of communication with him so that he can learn how to communicate his feelings and get help.
Here are some symptoms of stress you may notice in your child:
Physical Symptoms of Stress in Children – Physical symptoms could appear in your child as headaches, stomach aches, a loss of appetite or other changes in how he eats, wetting the bed and lack of sleep. After making sure there’s no illness causing the problem, you can assume that there’s something stressful going on in the child’s life. The stress could morph into panic attacks, which would include more exacerbated stress symptoms.
Behavioral Symptoms of Stress in Children – Your child’s behavior is a good way to gauge if he’s going through stress and anxiety. Acting out in an aggressive manner might be one way a child deals with stress. Stubbornness, crying, anger and attempting to control situations he’s in are also behavioral problems that might be accurately identified as stress symptoms in a child.
Irrational Fears – One really common red flag that may identify stress in children is that they’re expressing irrational fears. For example, a typical fire drill in school could cause the child to become panicked, crying and expressing fear about a real fire, even though they know it’s a drill.
Extreme Sadness – If your child seems excessively sad about a situation or worries constantly about the “what ifs” in life, he may be experiencing stress and anxiety in his life. A pet or close family member’s death may trigger sadness symptoms that last a long time and it may be difficult for the child to overcome.
These symptoms or any changes in the physical or behavioral makeup of your child should be considered red flags that he may be suffering from stress and anxiety in his life. Monitor your child closely to make sure they don’t become so out of control that they harm the child’s mental and physical health.
Types of Anxiety in Children
As children grow from babies to toddlers to young children and teens, they may experience various types of anxiety that could have an impact on the rest of their lives if they don’t learn how to cope with the stress they encounter. Of course, there are many children who, like their adult counterparts, end up with PTSD or C-PTSD. But that’s not all – others end up with definable stress and anxiety disorders.
Some types of stress and anxiety disorders sometimes found in children after narcissistic abuse by a parent include the following:
GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) – Children diagnosed with GAD often worry all the time about anything and everything. Their brains just create anxiety out of the most ordinary things such as an impending test, grades or friends.
The probable causes of GAD could include environmental factors such as family dynamics or even a chemical imbalance in the brain. Symptoms may include anger, lack of sleep, irritability and unwarranted worry.
Panic Disorder – Recurring panic attacks can affect your child both mentally and physically. Panic attacks are often uncontrollable and symptoms may include rapid heart rate, nausea and trouble breathing.
Panic attacks in children are also unpredictable and may stem from the child thinking too much about such dire situations as illness, dying and other situations that he can’t control.
The child also might develop a fear of heights, being left alone and other thoughts that a child doesn’t usually worry about.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – Children experiencing this stress disorder are often irrational about the most common daily tasks. They may be obsessed about washing their hands and imagine all types of consequences if they’re not clean enough.
Repetitive actions are also the norm for children with OCD. A child with OCD might begin counting obsessively or checking on something over and over again and think that something bad might happen to him if he doesn’t.
It’s important to recognize OCD early in a child or they may get caught in a cycle that will be difficult to recover from. The child has no control over his irrational actions and may not be able to suppress them.
Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD) – Separation anxiety can often be a normal reaction when children go through a certain stage from 6 months to 18 months old.
SAD occurs when children see or sense that their parents are leaving when dropped off at daycare or somewhere else. Usually, the problem subsides as they get further into the routines of school.
This type of anxiety becomes a disorder when the child begins to worry that something horrible is going to happen to them if their parents leave. They might cry and cling to the parent, have trouble sleeping and refuse to eat.
Children usually outgrow this disorder by the time they’re two years old. If they don’t outgrow it, it could become a real disorder and you may need to seek treatment.
Stress Phobias – A child who perceives danger or fear in normal situations may have a phobia. This may occur when a child has to fly in an airplane, sees or comes close to a dog or bug or has to get a vaccination at the doctor’s office – and while a certain amount of stress phobias are normal in young children, when it becomes life-altering or excessive, you need to do something to help.
Dealing with Irrational Fears and Phobias in Children
The situations that children often fear might seem ridiculous to us. But even though something may be trivial, to a child it could be monumental. If a child restricts their play and other activities and becomes withdrawn, the phobia needs to be addressed immediately.
Some children’s phobias may be solved by taking some quality time to spend with him to show him that what he thought was so scary, really isn’t. It may be necessary to get help from a therapist to solve some issues.
Anxiety in children can become a serious problem if you don’t recognize and cope with it early. Each child may have a different reaction to anxiety, just like in adults – and you may not always recognize it for what it is.
Tip: Attempt to get your child to verbalize his or her feelings so you can better figure out how to help him. You may need to see a therapist if the anxiety continues or if it gets out of control and your child loses the ability to go to school and function in activities that children usually enjoy.
Of all the types of anxiety in children, a panic attack is usually the one that reveals itself in a physical manner. You should be able to recognize when your child is having a panic attack so that you can take steps to calm him down and help him cope with the situation.
Early intervention is necessary to successfully help your child with certain anxiety disorders. If you need to seek treatment from a specialist, you should know that there are highly effective ones available.
Panic attacks stem from stress that’s escalated into visible panic symptoms. In children, as in adults, a panic attack can be sudden and unexplained fear and worry.
Physically, you could experience a shortness of breath, feel a rapid heart rate and have actual pain in the chest area. The child may also be dizzy, sweating profusely and have trouble telling you what’s wrong.
The causes of panic attacks could be difficult to pinpoint and might be genetic in nature. They could begin and get worse because of a traumatic experience or a stressful event such as divorce.
Marked changes in a child’s behavior because of the panic attacks may also be symptoms that you can recognize and do something about. If a child has a panic attack and then becomes withdrawn socially, he may be afraid of having another attack in public – around his friends.
Treatment for panic disorder in children may involve behavioral and cognitive therapy, certain medications or a combination of the two. It’s important that you make sure your child has a healthy lifestyle if he’s plagued with panic attacks.
A healthy diet, plenty of sleep and a good amount of exercise can go a long way in helping the child manage and eventually get rid of the possibility of a panic attack. Let the child knows he has support and can come to you with any problem he might perceive. No worry is too small to talk about.
Another thing you can do for your child to help minimize a panic disorder is to make sure there’s plenty of time in the schedule to relax. Don’t fill your child’s calendar with too much, and make sure you talk to him about whether or not he wants to participate in certain sports or activities.
How to Help Your Child Cope with the Reality of Stress
We’d all love to shield our children from ever having a moment’s stress in their entire lives, but the fact is that they’re going to be faced with some sort of stress almost every day – and sadly, this is especially true for children who have a narcissistic parent.
The key is to teach them how to cope with the reality of stress, face their fears and stand up for what’s right.
Children will eventually learn that stress and anxiety runs its own course in time and that finding ways to relax and get their minds off the situation will go a long way in helping them gain control of the situation.
Accentuate the positive. Your child may be lost in negative thoughts and criticism about his or her looks, performance in sports or academic pursuits or social aspects of their lives.
When you notice your child drowning in negativity, try to boost his self-esteem by reminding him of his great attributes and how he can turn a situation into a positive experience.
Set an example. If you’re anxious and stressed, your child will be too. Show your child how you can face fears and overcome them or accept the outcome and go on. Taking care of yourself is also an important part of life that you need to show your children.
Stand up to fear. Fear can be a horrifying experience – but once you face your fears, they gradually shrink and aren’t as scary as they were before you knew the facts. Fear of giving a speech in class, performing in sports, going on a date or entering a class full of kids you don’t know can be an overwhelmingly stressful experience for a child.
Encourage him and teach him about how to face and overcome fearful situations. Communication with your child is imperative to conquer stress and anxiety. Help is available online in the form of “feelings” charts and other ways to help you recognize your child’s body language and what he’s trying to express in his actions.
Since narcissists are notoriously selfish and typically unreliable, you have to the dependable one – so try to be consistent, but flexible in your attempt to help your kid overcome the stress and anxiety he or she may be experiencing as you deal with your narcissistic co-parent.
If you’ve ever been in a relationship with a toxic narcissist, you know how painful and traumatic it can be for an adult. Imagine how it would feel if you were a child – and if it were all you knew.
You probably are already aware that narcissistic parents refuse to respect or even acknowledge their children’s desires.
If you’re co-parenting with a narcissist, for example, you may watch him or her promise your kids the world, in order to get what he/she wants from them, and then refuse to honor the promises. He may even directly blame the kids for his refusal, such as inventing a reason to punish them.
The kids of a narcissist are often forced to miss out on events like birthday parties, little league games or other activities that are important to them in order to accommodate the narcissistic parent’s wishes.
And before long, if you’re co-parenting with a narcissist, your children will learn that what they want is just not important.
When Your Mom or Dad is a Narcissist: What the Kids Deal With
For a child of a narcissist, the intense rage alternating with the guilt and occasional public display of affection are combined with trying to do whatever the narc parent wishes to appease him. Unfortunately, it never works that way and the child will always ultimately fail to meet his standards of perfection.
This leads to the child constantly being told she’s a complete failure. She grows up without the ability to make her own choices, and she may become socially awkward, having trouble with setting boundaries.
Worse, the child of a narcissist will often fall to a line of successive abusers, as she has no notion of normal behavior and of what to expect from relationships.
She will believe that her feelings of being taken advantage of are her own fault. She will think she’s oversensitive (that’s what the narcissist tells her when she has a legitimate concern). She also feels that she somehow deserves the abuse and so has no option but to tolerate it, as everyone would do the same to her.
No good parent wants her child to experience these things. So how can you be sure you’re co-parenting with a narcissist? Check out these signs and see if you might recognize someone you know or love.
When his children fail to live up to his expectations, he severely punishes them.
Incapable of empathy, so will rain down toxic criticism and disapproval on children, even when they are good. That’s partially because the kids have their own feelings and personalities (which are separate and different from the narcissist’s), so they are never good enough.
Wants total control over his/her family. Expects children to become copies of himself, which he considers the measure of perfection.
Often causes kids to grow up with severe guilt and incredibly low self-esteem. May even cause them to become narcisists themselves.
Maintains two separate “identities” – one to the “outside world,” which includes even extended family, and another to those who live within the circle of influence (or the home).
Appears to outsiders to be a great listener, generous with time and money, charming, etc. But within those inside the home, a narc parent will be dismissive, ignoring and/or directly cruel. May also play mind games.
Covert narcs will seek attention with very subtle moves, often glaring at her targets across the room or kicking them under the table to get them to stop hogging the spotlight. Overt narcs will be more obvious with their attention-seeking behaviors – sometimes even openly interrupting or causing a scene when it’s not all about them.
Takes behaviors and misbehaviors of children as personal compliments and attacks on his or her Self – because as far as a narc parent is concerned, her children are simple extensions of herself. Is often over-dramatic and is heard saying things like “I can’t believe you would do this to me…” when disciplining children for normal childhood mistakes.
Sees his children, as well as everyone else, not as people who have own personalities, needs and feelings. but as merely objects that exist only to serve his purposes.
Gaslights children and spouse, intentionally undermining their senses of self and invading boundaries. This may manifest with subtle criticism, or it may be more direct.
For example, a narc mother whose daughter made the cheerleading squad might try to live virtually through the daughter, especially if she herself wanted to be a cheerleader and never made the squad.
She could do this by being incredibly controlling and overbearing, requiring her daughter to practice excessively and building discipline into cheerleading fails.
Alternatively, she might go the other direction and cast doubt on her. (“You only made the team because they felt sorry for you.”) Or, she might predict failure on the endeavor – but cloaked in concern. (“Are you sure you want to do this? What if you break your neck?”)
Believes that spouse and children don’t deserve to choose their own boundaries and will actively challenge and overstep them.
Behaves as though children and spouse are possessions which don’t have valid thoughts and opinions.
Becomes indignant and/or denies it if you ask them to discuss these behaviors.
For example, if your narc mother knows that you love to cook, she may pretend she doesn’t when you mention something about it. But if you confront her and remind her how you won that cooking contest you entered last year, she instantly reminds you that she’s always telling people that you’re a great cook.
May actually tell people about your accomplishments, but only to make herself look good and to get attention.
Envies the good things that others have, but won’t admit to wanting those things and won’t attempt to get them. But if anyone else does something to improve their circumstances, may call them selfish and entitled.
For example, if the narc mother of an adult learned that her daughter bought her first brand new car, she’d shake her head and murmur something about the dangers of new car ownership and how much insurance must be costing by now, rather than simply saying “wow, congrats honey!” or something else that is in any way appropriate.
Never likes people “for real,” even though she may have a huge social circle. There are few people she will speak very well of, and she’s not really emotionally close to anyone. The people who they do seem to like are often their admirers and/or those who don’t ask much of them.
Vain, but maybe not how you’d expect. For example. while she may not be openly flashy or stylish, a narc mother is very concerned about what people think. So, if she had to choose between “keeping up appearances” or protecting her kids? She’d definitely go with the former.
Can’t deal with other people’s strong emotions. May instantly bristle when someone, even her child, comes to her with an emotional problem – or any strong emotion at all. Behaves as though the emotions of others are a burden and may even try to make them all about her and/or steal the “spotlight” of any issue.
For example, if her child is getting a risky surgery, she will focus more on how it’s affecting her, rather than the child – and will suck up as much attention and pity as possible in the process.
Will make it all about how upsetting this is to her, rather than the fact that her child’s life is at risk. (Will still, of course, appear to be the perfect parent with an appropriate amount of concern to all of the “outsiders” in her life.)
Expects people to wait on him/her – and expects not to reciprocate. May make statements such as “I work for a living, after all” or “Must be nice to sit around here and do nothing while I work my ass off for you!”
Are you co-parenting with a narcissist? What are your best tips to cope? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section, below. Let’s discuss it.