How to Help Children of Narcissists

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Narcissistic Personality Disorder can be a very tricky disorder to manage because it is characterized by an obsession with self above others. The people who bear the brunt of this disorder are those closest to the condition, especially children of narcissists. The parent/child relationship is a very significant one; it is very tender and can be easily manipulated. Those who have NPD can willingly or unwillingly wound their children through their behaviors and relational patterns. Many times, the children won't realize the extent of these wounds until adulthood when the truth is revealed through therapy or other relationships. If you're interested in helping the child, adult or otherwise, of a narcissist, there are steps you can take.

  • Help the child understand what Narcissistic Personality Disorder is and how the person with the condition functions in her relationships. Comprehension is the first step to healing, and understanding allows the child to feel normal despite the parent's disorder. It affirms that there's nothing wrong with her as a child. According to PubMed Health, here are some of the most significant symptoms of someone suffering from NPD: "[They will] react to criticism with rage, shame or humiliation, take advantage of other people to achieve his or her own goals, have excessive feelings of self-importance and exaggerate achievements and talents." Ask the child if those attributes sound true of her parent. Encourage her to name specific examples of these behaviors.

  • Affirm that the child of the person with NPD is culpable for his mistakes, but so is the parent. A narcissist will often play the victim when confrontation arises, putting blame on whomever disagrees with his actions or opinions. He does because his sense of self is not strong, even though it seems as if he is very confident. In fact, though, a person with NPD struggles from a very tiny sense of self, so when he feels threatened, he tries to give himself importance by knocking others down. When a parent does this to his child, even if that child is an adult, it can be extremely confusing and hurtful because the child will often believe the parent, even if accusations about are false. You can help the child realize the truths about himself, what wrongs he is responsible for, how to apologize for what is in his control, and not taking responsibility for what is not.

  • Get the child into therapy. Depending on the severity of the NPD case, you may not be able to help the child fully unless you are a trained counselor. These wounds go deep, often back to childhood, and uncovering the lies can often take years of therapy and support. Above all else, offer a listening ear and a willingness to offer wisdom. But because NPD is a serious mental disorder, it should most often be treated as such, and the effects of the disorder in the lives it touches should be treated professionally as well.

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