Child Psychological Abuse
Lifelong Effects on Children Who Grow Up With Narcissistic Personality Disordered Parents–
by Dr. Laurel a Sills, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Michigan. ￼￼ 9/2/2022
The deeply damaging effects to a personality when growing up with especially subtle narcissism (which is not recognized by outsiders) is extremely long-lasting and often unseen by others. Kids may act strong and unaffected and become leaders or bossy and controlling and seem super confident, or, people- please in such a way that
most people like them and don’t notice that they are appeasing to everybody and not standing up for what they want.
Anxiety is high for the child who grows up confused by hearing they are loved by their parent who doesn’t guide them, dismisses them, is insensitive towards them, is hypercritical, micromanaging, doesn’t seem to see them or respect them. The child feels one way, but is told another or that they are overreacting, being dramatic, making mountains out of molehills, or dismissed, etc.; thus undermining the child’s self-trust and reliance upon their own feelings and perceptions to make accurate conclusions.
As a result, the child is apt to constantly need reassurance and seek outside validation rather than feel self-reliant and trust themself to be able to discern things accurately and appropriately.￼
Since narcissists unconsciously project their own self hatred and dislike of self onto others, the names they call their children typically are descriptors of themselves or some form of their own self-shame or doubt. If a parent says a child is selfish look and see if the parent is acting that way. If the parent says the child is stupid look and see if the parent is acting unaware of important dynamics.
When narcissistic parents use their children as an extension of themselves, they often push their kids to do the things they never did to finish unresolved dynamics from their own backgrounds. i.e. forcing a child to play football because the parent want to live through them and have their child reflect strength and athleticism and popularity. Forcing K
kids to act in their own mirror images rather than see their child as separate and unique individuals is another common pitfall.￼￼
Validating a child’s feelings is vital to help them grow to trust their own perceptions. It’s also important to help distinguish somebody else’s problems from a child’s behaviors.
As children, we must be seen for our own uniqueness and our own strengths and limitations; not be ridiculed for our limitations and molded into a mini version of our parent.￼
In therapy, the adult children has to express their confusion about how they felt in their families versus what they were told by the unhealthy family members. It takes outside validation, much love and compassion, an explanation for adult children to eventually recognize they were the victims of parents who were also suffering from their upbringing, and suffering that makes them project all kinds of things onto them. I’m not talking about physical abuse and more violent narcissism and sociopathic narcissism. I’m talking about even subtle abuse emotional, constant negative commentary, ignoring, eye/rolling, dismissive body language, disrespect, disregard mixed in with warm fuzzies, a
Conditional love, threats to withdraw love if a child doesn’t do what is asked or commanded… all part of the felt verbal and emotional abuse even when the parent is unaware.
Because the parent is unaware, when they later are confronted by adult children or teenagers about how they were feeling hurt by that parent, that parent often acts as if they were the one mortally wounded. Often the parent acts angry, surprised, betrayed, retaliates, or deeply hurt.
Sometimes parents give their children the silent treatment when a child tells their parent how they’ve been hurt by them. This just compounds the child’s ( teen or adult child’s) guilt and confusion.
Good therapy, in my opinion, combines validation, education, explanation, empathy, and teaching how to cope and separate what that parent did and said to the child from the real truth of who the child ( who became adult or teen pending on what age they are entering therapy) really is￼￼￼￼ and who they were born to be.
The growth to health for the children of Narcissitic parents is to find honest, real, compassionate and loving people who can support, guide, teach and demonstrate unconditional love with guidelines for appropriate behavior in the world. Empathy is vital. Depth of emotions and discussion about feelings is vital. Healing comes in the relational and attachment realms. ￼
Because the narcissistic parent is so confident and sure of themselves, they’re very intimidating to confront even by the spouse. When children see their other parent staying with the narcissistic parent and not challenging them, it certainly makes challenging that parent even more difficult. The ones that are brave enough to challenge, should not be punished, but instead revered for sharing their feelings and being brave. They have to learn to say things in a healthy way and be given a safe place to share with a professional who can validate them away from the Narcissitic parent(s) and protect them from further ridicule, minimization or dismissal.