It can’t be. While the narcissistic parent is insensitive and uncaring, your child seems overly compassionate, caring, and highly attuned, almost to the point of compulsion, to needs of others. Your child fails to see anything wrong with the narcissistic parent and believes the parent to be near perfect. Gratitude and praise flow off your child’s lips as such a welcome change from the demoralizing comments emanating from the narcissistic parent. So your child couldn’t be narcissistic, right? Wrong.
There is a budding type of narcissism known as the inverted narcissist and is occasionally seen in children of narcissistic parents. Basically it works like this. The child idealizes the narcissistic parent to the point that he or she gets satisfaction out of pleasing the parent who is difficult to please. Your child gives the narcissistic parent an unending supply of adoration and admiration which the parent in turn craves. Because the child supplies the narcissist’s needs with excessive praise, the parent then becomes possessive and dependent as an addict is to a drug in an unhealthy manner. Your child figuratively becomes the mirror which the narcissistic parent uses to view their inflated ego.
What can you do? There really is no use in identifying all of the flaws of the narcissistic parent because it will only serve as a point of contention between you and your child possibly ending in alienation. Instead, don’t burst your child’s bubble about the narcissistic parent but don’t lie by agreeing with your child either. Rather listen to your child’s point of view and don’t take advantage of your child’s giving nature. This will naturally set you apart from the narcissistic parent.
What can you say? As the non-narcissistic parent, you might not be in the best position to bring clarity to your child’s opinions about the narcissistic parent. More than likely you will be too emotionally involved to think clearly and present an alternative opinion. In addition, you need to focus on non-manipulative communication with your child avoiding such pitfalls as guilt tactics or bribery. So find a safe adult person that your child can confide in to discuss any issues related to the narcissistic parent. This person should have a full understanding of narcissism and not be subject to the same idealization as your child.
Will it get better? Yes but not without some hurt feelings along the way. Eventually the narcissistic parent will disappoint the child because the facade cannot be maintained for too long; however it may not happen until adulthood. In the meantime, don’t do anything to destroy your relationship with the child; your child needs a strong parental bond because the narcissist is not empathic. Your child may want to spend alone time with the narcissistic parent and naturally you will want to protect your child from potential harm. Yet, this alone time may just be what is needed to bring about clarity for your child in the difference between the two parents.
Narcissism is hard to deal with by itself. If you are struggling with it, imagine how hard it is for your child who does not have the life experience to tell them something is wrong. At some point in adulthood your child will confront you about the narcissistic parent so be prepared to be honest about your own struggle and successes in dealing with narcissism.
Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort. If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment. Or you can send me a quick email at firstname.lastname@example.org.