How Narcissistic Parents Affect Mental Health in Children
For many children, childhood is a time of wonder, play, and discovery. These children have parents who give them the safety and security to explore the world around them and grow to reach their full potential.
But some children have one or more parents who lack the right skills or behavior to allow their children to feel safe, secure, and unconditionally loved. Those children who are raised by someone with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) often experience prolonged trauma, and the effects of this trauma can linger into adulthood.
What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
When we hear the word narcissist, we often think of certain politicians or celebrities who are known for their boastful and arrogant behavior. And while these traits are definitely annoying, narcissism is far more complex and destructive to those in the relationship with the narcissist, particularly children.
The main characteristics of narcissism are a lack of empathy and the inability to recognize the emotional needs of others. Narcissistic parents also tend to view their offspring as competition while simultaneously denying them independent personhood.
Some other key characteristics of narcissistic parents include:
How Does a Narcissistic Parent Affect a Child’s Mental Health?
The following are some common ways kids, and adult children of narcissists, feel about themselves and life in general:
You grow up feeling unseen and unheard. Your emotional needs never really valued.
Loss of Identity
Your identity is developed throughout childhood and especially in your adolescent years. Teens who grow up attending to their parent’s needs over their own experience a loss of identity, meaning that it can be hard to understand who you are and you may have issues exploring your own interests, aside from what your parents expect of you. This can also lead to difficulties in making decisions later in life.
Narcissistic parents make sure it’s ALWAYS about them. Children grow up feeling 100% responsible for making sure their parent’s needs (financial, emotional, and otherwise) are taken care of. They do not learn how to form healthy boundaries, only how to please others.
Narcissists are liars and manipulators. They will “gaslight” their children into believing a false reality. As a result, children grow up with crippling self-doubt, never believing they can trust their own feelings.
If you believe one or both of your parents was a narcissist and you are suffering from any of these aftereffects, you CAN heal. Working with a therapist who specializes in recovery from narcissistic abuse can put you on the path to self-love, self-compassion, and greater joy and intimacy with others.
If you’d like to explore treatment options, please get in touch with me.