Protecting your children from abusive grandparents shows wisdom and strength.
As you begin your journey and leadership as a single parent, it is important to choose who you will allow to be around and influence your children. Perhaps you’ve come to the realization that one or both of your own parents have a narcissistic personality disorder. This can be hard to process, but also empowering, as you accept your tremendous responsibility to protect your children from dangerous adults.
The emotional abuse heaped on a child by narcissistic parent(s) can take years to understand and overcome. As you recall the manipulation, criticism and blame that you endured, quickly establish firm boundaries to protect your children. Knowing their potential for harm, keeping your kids away from manipulative, toxic grandparents shows maturity, wisdom and strength.
As a culture, we place great importance on extended family. Grandparents are viewed as harmless old people who love and spoil their grandchildren. Narcissistic grandparents are not harmless. A toxic grandparent has an over-inflated ego and a lack of empathy for other people’s feelings. That includes people closest to them—their own family.
Incapable of True Connection
Narcissists carefully select unwitting, loving individuals to manipulate and guzzle narcissistic supply from. Children are wonderful sources of narcissistic supply, with their natural adoration, trust and love. Ensuring a good source of narcissistic supply is the main reason narcissists have children, often many.
Large families with narcissistic leadership appear glossy from the exterior, but are often woefully dysfunctional, controlling and highly abusive within. With narcissists, the only love is from children to the parent / grandparent; there is no reciprocation. Narcissists are incapable of true connection, as they cannot comprehend nor give sincere, unconditional love. These emotionally vacuous vampires are incapable of healthy, loving relationships.
A narcissistic individual feeds off “supply” to keep their fragile false self in place. They will employ whatever tactics needed to control others, feed their ego and force compliance. If yours was a controlling, emotionally-abusive childhood, take steps to protect your own children from this manipulative, harmful behavior.Leah Hill | CEO and Founder, Divorce Strategies Northwest
Naively, most children adore and love grandparents—even narcissistic ones. Grandchildren provide a never-ending source of narcissistic supply, despite a narcissist’s lack of true connection or genuine care. Narcissistic supply is the attention, love, admiration, or even fear that non-narcissists show towards them.
A narcissistic individual needs “supply” to keep their fragile false self in place. They will employ whatever tactics needed to control others, feed their ego, and relentlessly force compliance. If yours was a controlling, emotionally-abusive childhood, take steps to protect your own children from this manipulative, harmful behavior. Do not allow your children to rely on narcissists for love and approval. From childhood, you know this exhausting, emotionally-abusive marathon has no finish line.
Narcissistic parents draw narcissistic supply from their children and grandchildren. Achieved with guilt, harsh control, and sudden, short-lived “acts” of kindness, insecure narcissists do not seek understanding nor acceptance. They demand compliance and require that children express forced appreciation or offer tearful apologies. The narcissistic parent / grandparent drinks in the control and adulation. This forced behavior fortifies the narcissist’s false sense of grandiosity, greatness and admiration.
Young children will not understand your efforts to rationalize with them about how abusive grandparents are not good people. Narcissistic liars are experts at manipulation and the art of “the spin.” For now, trying to explain emotional neglect and emotional abuse to your children is inappropriate, fruitless and confusing for them. Your best defense is a strategic offense.
Children, especially young ones, are naively trusting of adults, including grandparents. Children learn by watching and listening to the adults in their lives. Narcissistic people have severe emotional deficits that produce an entirely egocentric worldview. The confusion and complexities of a relationship with a narcissist will cause your children to become manipulative, skittish and deceitful— this is survival.
Toxic grandparents may feel some love for their grandchildren, but they cannot help who they truly are. They are critical, manipulative, selfish and judgmental people. In their mind, when they are criticizing someone (gossip), they’re “helping” them become better. A child’s psyche is fragile and impressionable, and ill-equipped to manage this intense emotional abuse. Hurtful or critical words can become their inner voice, which can lead to confusion, anxiety, depression, and other serious illnesses.
Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder are abusive and emotionally unwell; they have no ability to feel empathy or genuine love. You have a responsibility to prevent your children from being hurt, used, and confused. Your moral imperative is to keep a grandparent from feeding off your children’s innocence.
Talk with your children about the benchmarks of a healthy relationship. By doing so, you are helping them develop personal boundaries, and encouraging them to listen to their intuition and trust their inner voice. Teach your children the skills needed to deal with toxic people they may encounter. Allow your children to bask in the confidence of your unconditional love.
Undermining Your Parenting
Your narcissistic parents will not support your leadership in parenting. Unless you’re present while your parents are with your children, you won’t realize this insidious abuse is sneaking into your own family. A narcissistic grandparent will not accept your parental authority, which creates chaotic confusion. You won’t see the dangerous effects of your parent’s lack of respect for you until your children begin to defy you with the same harsh accusations and critical taunts you remember from childhood. Narcissists do not change.
While healthy grandparents can enrich your child’s life, grandparents—healthy or narcissistic— are not essential to your children’s development. Your children will not feel an emptiness if grandparents are not part of their lives. Conversely, having your parents in your family’s life could induce the presence of emotional abuse and inflict toxicity into your children’s reality— be judicious in your choices.
Unless it serves their needs and selfish agenda, narcissistic parents will not support you. Innocent children are tempting, loving targets for narcissistic grandparents who refuse to be held accountable. They do not respect individuality and personal choices; any diversion from their strict control will be admonished and squelched. Their pathetic need for control drives the narcissist’s every move.
Many adult children of narcissists struggle with enforcing boundaries with their parents. Feelings of guilt and fear prevent survivors from putting a firm barrier between them and their abusive parent(s). Do not allow conflicted feelings to prevent you from putting an invisible fence around your children.
Just as you would protect your children from a toxic spill, shelter your children from abusive adults. This is good parenting. You know your parents, and recognize that their behavior is driven by their desire to control everyone around them. By manipulating your children, your parents can carry on the intense emotional and psychological abuse you suffered in their care.
Ideally, prevent a narcissistic grandparent from having any contact with your children. ‘No contact’ is a serious decision that will likely have a ripple effect on the entire family. As painful as can be, cutting ties with toxic family members is the only way to stop the abuse for good. Despite the backlash, you have a responsibility to protect your children from harm, including those who claim to love them but have a history of causing creating painful dissonance and chaotic confusion.
As an adult, your narcissistic parent has no power in your life, but they can damage and hurt your children. By keeping your parents away from your kids, you are intentionally breaking the harmful cycle of narcissistic abuse that injured you. Protect your children, nurture their individuality, and set boundaries that you wish had protected you as a child.
Ensure that your children have relationships with positive, healthy, engaging adults who support your values and love your children for who they are. Be an example by reflecting on your own flaws, and demonstrate healthy communication by sincerely apologizing for misunderstandings and wrongdoings. In contrast to a narcissist, a truly loving adult will consistently support and encourage a child’s self-confidence as they grow and make independent decisions.
The strength and personal integrity you show by protecting your children will help you heal. The actions you take on behalf of your children will empower you, and be a continued catalyst for courage. Offer your children practical and emotional support, unconditional love, and champion safe, healthy relationships with trusted friends and family.
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