What happens to grown children of a narcissist father during and after divorce?
This is important to consider because after you’ve left the Narcissist far behind and relieved yourself of the pain, your children continue to deal with him. It’s not a pretty picture. As the healthy parent, understanding the Narcissist, knowing what to expect and providing tips for the children will lessen the pain for everyone.
Narcissist is a term that originated with Narcissus in Greek Mythology who fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water. Currently it is used to describe a person characterized by egotism, vanity, pride, or selfishness. (Source: Wikipedia). They are often affectionately referred to as ‘Narc’, for short.
If you are unsure about the personality type of your ex read this article from Divorced Moms and take the quiz. Mothers can also be narcissistic but I am focusing on the fathers in this post. It is a very similar situation and the tips and signs apply to mothers as well.
Signs your children’s father has a Narcissistic personality
- He has an overly inflated view of his own importance.
- He has a tendency to exaggerate his accomplishments.
- He has an excessive need for admiration.
- He excessively envies others.
- He has a constant belief that others envy him.
- He has a condescending manner towards others.
- He has a noticeable lack of empathy.
- He has a sense of entitlement that he brings to his relationships.
Appearances are very important to the Narcissist.
The ‘supply’ for the narcissist is the people around him. They help him stay in the spot light and reflect his self importance. Supply sources are usually family members, spouses, co-workers (often underlings in the workplace) and friends. The one thing these people have in common is they all idolize, look up to and believe everything the Narcissist tells them.
The moment these people question, doubt or disagree with the Narc, they are no longer of use to him and no longer a source of supply. The Narc’s children are the ultimate supply…they’re always there, they carry his genes and they look up to him without question, heck, they even look a bit like him…
The Narcissistic Father:
Narcissistic fathers see their children simply as an extension of themselves. Their children’s appearance, behavior, choices, friends and activities are all a reflection of themselves. This condition often includes the parent expecting their children to be ‘perfect’ just as they view themselves.
They do not see the children as individuals with their own ideas. For obvious reasons this becomes highly destructive to the children as they approach young adulthood. Every decision they make is questioned by the Narc father.
Every dream, idea or hint of independent thought is dismissed by the Narc father if it does not abide by his ideals.
If the son of a narcissist chooses a certain academic program in college and the Narc views their choice as substandard i.e. not medicine, pre-law, science or architecture, they will make their disapproval known to all. They may even go so far as to pretend the son isn’t attending college. His classes aren’t real because they are not what he told him to study. You can see where this is going.
The son is hard pressed to find any moral support or love from his father. They are not capable of giving it. They are only capable of recognizing what makes them look good or places them in the spotlight. Surely, if the son had chosen pre-law for his studies, the Narc would be bragging about it. It would reflect well on him.
A Daughter’s Experience With a Narcissistic Father:
“My friend’s daughter had the ‘pleasure’ of running into one of her father’s long time friends. The conversation that ensued humiliated her. She was basically heckled by this person. He asked her why she dropped out of university and why she had so many tattoos. When she explained that she hadn’t dropped out and was attending night classes, he responded that the classes weren’t ‘real’. Interestingly, her father had said the same to her not more than a week prior. This example shows how toxic the Narc can be and how it transfers to the Narc’s supply (friends). The conversation left the young woman feeling ugly and stupid. The Narc father can be extremely charming and fun. As long as the children are a source of supply, the children will benefit from this charm. But the parent’s attention to the children can quickly turn to neglect and abuse once they are older and cease to provide narcissistic supply. As the children grow they question their parents’ ideas and while this is a normal part of child development, the Narc will not accept it. He requires his children to worship him.”
Divorce and the Narcissistic Father:
During divorce, co-parenting with a narcissist can be dangerous. They will go to great lengths to possess the children. They will fabricate or distort the truth in order to maintain allegiance from their children. Deep down a Narc is highly insecure. Parenting after divorce becomes a popularity contest for the Narc. They have to ‘win’ the children at all costs. Their ego is vulnerable and causes them to lash out at the person who has rejected their idealistic view of themselves.
If you have asked for the divorce you can bet their wrath will be focused on you. So what begins as a type of possession can escalate into a destructive pattern of parental alienation. It is fair to say, a Narc parent is more likely than a regular parent, to use parental alienation as a method to retaliate. What begins as possessive and nonstop attention from the father inevitably turns to rejection as the children enter adulthood.
The Impact on Children of a Narcissistic Father:
When the child is on the verge of adulthood and learning to spread their wings, there will likely be conflict between Narc parent and child. At this point, know that your child will be vulnerable to abuse. Nothing they do or say will be good enough for their Narc father.
If the child (now a young adult) is not available to serve the Narc parent immediately upon request, they are subject to abuse. This abuse can be verbal, emotional, mental and sometimes even physical. The repercussions to the child can be seen as:
- low self esteem,
- self doubt and,
- lack of confidence.
If the child is no longer good for the Narc, they are not good for anything and they are told as much. The Narc will even go so far as to tell anyone who will listen how disobedient and terrible their child is. How their child has hurt them.
It is common to hear the Narc speak of himself as the victim.
They will even enlist other people or sources of supply to ‘talk sense’ into the child. This creates a whole extended source of stress for the child as he is questioned by friends and family who believe the Narc’s stories. But reliving the ugly words of the Narc parent in order to tell his ‘side of the story’ leaves the adult child defensive and frustrated. The child’s self esteem and confidence become further eroded by the Narc’s enlisted supply.
It is important that you, as the healthy parent acknowledge that this treatment is abusive.
Talking to Your Child About Narcissistic Abuse:
Explain to your child that the abuse is not his fault and he did nothing wrong (barring the typical difficulties parent/child relations endure) and doesn’t deserve this abuse. Reminding your child that it’s okay to stand up for himself and to remove himself from the abuse is key to helping him cope. Equip your child no matter what age, with skills and tactics to handle the Narc parent. In extreme cases, the adult child may need to estrange himself from the parent to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to heal.
Tips for For Adult Children of Narcissistic Fathers:
- Anticipate when there will be conflict and practice remaining calm and keeping explanations simple.
- Learn about the personality type of the Narc parent and understand it is not YOUR problem.
- Keep your expectations of the parent low.
- If you need to negotiate something with your narc parent always begin with how it will benefit them.
- Set and maintain boundaries to lessen emotional and bullying interference.
- It’s okay to say ‘no’ to your father.
- Know when it’s time to walk away to live healthy.
- Maintaining distance allows you to have a limited but better relationship with the Narc parent.
- Understand that an apology from the Narc is often insincere and abusive patterns will likely repeat.
- Narcissists often express love with money.
Tips for the Healthy Parent:
- Love your child unconditionally.
- Be a source of moral support.
- Model normal behavior.
- Praise your child’s independence and decision making.
- Allow them to make mistakes.
- Acknowledge the abuse.
- Continue teaching them relationship etiquette.
It’s important to understand the destructive behaviors of the Narcissist father and their impact on your children. Especially after divorce, when the Narc can become even more insecure and abusive it’s important to realize the unique challenges you will face. Know that as your children become adults, there is bound to be more conflict between them and their Narcissist father.
Acknowledging that these behaviors are abusive and educating your child on how to best handle the narcissistic father will help them cope with the ongoing difficulties this relationship will bring.
Your best tactic? Continue modeling normal parenting behavior.
Is the father or mother of your children Narcissistic? How has it affected your children? Share your tips and stories in the comments section!