If your children have a parent who exhibits narcissistic tendencies, this can not only put a strain on your relationship but could also put your children at risk. So, what should you do if you think your child has a narcissistic parent?

Every relationship goes through rough patches – that’s completely normal. However, if you begin to recognise signs that your partner, or an ex-partner that is the parent of your children, is a narcissist, this could cause plenty of complications.

If your children’s parent is a narcissist, your first priority should be to make sure that your children are well-protected. But, what will that involve? For some, divorcing a narcissist may be necessary and, for others, there may be other, less drastic solutions.

Here, we discuss how to recognise the signs that your children’s other parent is a narcissist, how this may be bad for both you and your children, and the steps you can take to make sure your children are well-protected. Be sure to read on below to find out more…

What is a Narcissist?

Many people flippantly presume that someone who is overly confident or self-absorbed classes as a narcissist. While these may be traits that narcissists demonstrate, they don’t necessarily reflect what it means for someone to be a true narcissist.

Someone who is a true narcissist suffers from a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). This is a mental health condition that is defined by various characteristics.

The most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists nine criteria for NP. However, it also specifies that someone only needs to meet five of them to be clinically qualified as a narcissist.

The criteria to be declared a narcissist are:

  • Grandiose sense of self-importance
  • Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • Belief they’re special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions
  • Need for excessive admiration
  • Sense of entitlement
  • Interpersonally exploitative behaviour
  • Lack of empathy
  • Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of them
  • Demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviours or attitudes

Narcissism can be boiled down to acts of selfishness (potentially at the extreme end) that are at the expense of others. It also results in an inability to consider other people’s feelings at all.

What Might Narcissistic Behaviour Look Like?

Despite the criteria for narcissism being, on paper, pretty clear cut, it can still be difficult to spot if someone is a narcissist – especially if you’re romantically involved, or have been romantically involved, with one.

So, what does narcissistic behaviour look like? Here are some potential examples that you may recognise:

Constant Blaming

If your children’s other parent is a narcissistic parent, you may have come to find that they struggle to hold any personal accountability for their actions. This quickly results in a ‘blame game’ where they blame you or your children for any slight disagreement or inconvenience.

This can quickly take a heavy emotional toll as you and your children will start to find that you’re walking on eggshells when you’re around them for fear of being blamed for berated for something.

Emotional and Verbal Abuse

Narcissistic behaviour can often manifest itself into emotional and verbal abuse. As true narcissists lack basic empathy for others, you may find that they use vulnerabilities against you and your children or launch verbal attacks in an attempt to inflate their own self-confidence.

Often, this can also come in the form of ‘gaslighting’, where the narcissist manipulates a situation to make it appear as though you or your children are actually the ones in the wrong and have caused a situation to get out of hand. 

Physical Abuse

Alarmingly, in some situations, verbal and emotional abuse can quickly develop into physical abuse. Of course, this is particularly important to recognise, especially if it means your children are put at risk of harm.

What Can You Do to Protect Your Children from a Narcissistic Parent?

There are a number of steps you can take to make sure you and your children are protected from a narcissistic parent. These include:

Don’t Stoop to Their Level

Narcissists will often look to elicit an emotional reaction from others in order to get a leg up on them. So, it’s important to stay calm and act logically, especially when in the presence of your children so that they cannot paint you out to be the ‘bad’ parent.

Try not to let your emotions distract you from what is in your child’s best interest.

Using Alternative Dispute Resolution

In some situations, things may not be black and white. While you should certainly be mindful if your children’s parent has demonstrated that they’re a narcissist, it may be a good idea to at least try to come to some form of agreement that reduces the stress on your children’s lives.

Alternative Dispute Resolution, methods such as mediation and arbitration, can be used to put agreements in place that restrict the contact the other parent has with your children but are less formal than court proceedings and can be completed collaboratively.

Getting a Divorce

Naturally, getting a divorce is likely to be the best option you have in terms of being able to limit the contact the parent has with your children. However, you should be mindful that getting a divorce in the UK isn’t always straightforward, based on the fact that you need to be able to prove the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship.

You’ll also want to consider how honest should you be with your children about your divorce. Divorce itself is a huge step and you will definitely want to consider how you can best help your child cope with your divorce.

Do you Think Your Children’s Parent is a Narcissist?

To summarise, in this post, we’ve discussed what it means for someone to be a narcissist, some of the potential signs, and what you could do if you think that your children’s parent is a narcissist.

What do you think? Have you had to deal with a narcissistic parent in the past? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.