How to Deal with your Narcissistic Parents as an Adult

This post was written by Ashley Berges

Being raised by narcissistic parents is challenging. When we’re children we don’t know what narcissism is, we don’t understand how it works, and we sure don’t realize our parents are narcissistic, we just know they are our parents. Our parents are supposed to take care of us, love us, and be there for us however we soon grow up in a household where we feel as though we must be perfect, it seems our parents have little or no time for us, and we find our self jumping through hoops to impress them, to make them love us…Children of narcissists feel neglected however from the outside perspective it appears very different. When you’re a child of a narcissist, you’re an extension of the parent, what you do makes them feel good or bad, it’s about how you make them feel.

What happens when our parents aren’t there to help and support us but rather, are simply there for themselves? Parents should be there every step of the way, making sure we live up to our own expectations and always encouraging us to be the best version of us. When a parent is too concerned about themselves and pays little to no attention to us, their children, this is when they can be defined as narcissists. Not sure if you are dealing with a narcissistic parent? According to 10 Signs of a Narcissistic Parent, written by Preston Ni, a first sign is that the parent “uses/lives through one’s child”.

Dealing with narcissistic parents at a young age can be tricky, and there isn’t a whole lot you can do as you hold very little authority. It’s when you’re finally an adult that it becomes an even bigger issue as you now hold the power to do anything, and yet you still don’t know how to deal with the selfish people who raised you. You often think “it’s not so bad” and “they will eventually wake up and take responsibility”, but you know that neither of these statements are true. You are simply too scared to bring it up. Surely it isn’t your place to tell your parents how they are wrong, they are the ones who raised you, not the other way around. And you might tell yourself that there is nothing you can do, which puts you in a victim state of mind and forces you to reflect on all the reasons why you might deserve this poor treatment. Stop this! No one deserves to be disregarded by their parents, not you, not anyone.

Take a deep breath. It’s time to start dealing with these narcissistic parents, and here’s how:

1.  Limit your time around them. 

This step is pretty self-explanatory, yet it can be of great help. The more time you spend around this personality type, the more it impacts your life and how you think. Spending time with narcissistic parents will make you question your own self-worth, and you may start to doubt yourself and feel as if you deserve this poor treatment. This is never true, not for anyone. This is why it’s best to limit your time around them. Exposure to this for long periods of time can cause anger and resentment. More often than not we feel if we say the right thing, show by example, etc., that they will realize what’s been going on and make amends. However, more often than not, they don’t make changes and we feel ineffective and anger not just at them but to ourselves for not being able to illuminate the truth in a way they can accept and acknowledge.

2.     Be willing to vocalize your truth.

When you decide to vocalize your truth, do it in a positive nonaggressive manner. However, remember that we may expose truths to the narcissist but they may choose to not understand or due to their way of thinking, may misunderstand or turn it back around and onto you. Making it about you and dismissing responsibility, pointing out your anger, your flaws, and speaking on how your comments have hurt them. 

It’s normal to have a fear of confrontation. However, sometimes confrontation shouldn’t be avoided, because if we avoid confrontation that can mean that we are co-signing on other people’s behavior that is antithetical to our life and that is not living true to ourself, our life, and our boundaries. When we stand up for ourself we have to be aware that there may be retaliation in the form of silent treatment and avoidance.

3.     Be ok with the silent treatment.

 If you’ve finally stood up for yourself, and vocalized your feelings, chances are your parents won’t be ready for this, even though you’re an adult they still aren’t ready. This is an out of character respond from you. The silent treatment is used as punishment, a way of control employed by the narcissist. I feel that the silent treatment is emotional abuse, here’s a video I created on YouTube about the silent treatment, so you can understand and realize when it’s being used as an emotional weapon against you:

4.     You can love them but you don’t want to co-sign on their narcissism.

Loving someone does not mean being there so they can tear you down, it means giving them your care and unconditional love and hopefully getting the same in response. We all want to be loved especially by our parents, however, when we co-sign on their actions and attitude we are only sacrificing our feelings, our needs, and our boundaries. 

5.     Begin to see them as another person- not just mom or dad.

When thinking of mom and dad, we automatically associate them with parents, awesome parents that can do no wrong. We associate them with the definition of the Hollywood parent depicted on the screen or TV. Because they do not act like this, we get confused, we know what a parent is supposed to be like but our parent is not like the ones depicted. In order to stop defining them in this way and getting confused and even angry that they are not like this, we must change our label of them. Once we lift the label of parent from them and see them as another person, we can begin to see the reality of the relationship and not take it so emotionally hard.

6.     Play by your rules! Create and live by the boundaries of what you will and won’t accept. 

You are an adult, you have your own life, and you no longer have to live by their rules. In order to have a healthy relationship with your parents, you must be aware of them overstepping and blurring the lines. We want to end codependency in these relationships with narcissistic parents. 

7.     Live by example.

When others ask you for advice, you are likely going to give them advice that you would want someone to give you. It’s time to start following your own advice; do not simply be the mediator, be the doer. Set an example for not only others but for yourself as well.

8.     Begin to take inventory of your values- realizing the toxic patterns in your life-

This step requires action. It’s time to begin to stand up for yourself. When we begin to take inventory of our life and the people in it, we realize toxic patterns in our life. We realize the way we have dealt with certain aspects of our life and the better ways of dealing with things. Doing the same thing and expecting different results is not healthy and will let us down. We must take action, be realistic about toxicity in our life, and do what we need to safeguard ourself learning from the situation.

9.     Be the leader.

 In any relationship, you must lead your life. You must be the leader, not following what others want you to do but doing what you want to do. Often we find ourself waiting for someone else to make a change, to realize our value as we wait in the balance. We feel that if we just say the right thing, they will awaken from their narcissistic slumber and all will be well in the world. The only thing we can do is be in charge of ourself, to not react and to take care of our feelings and emotions. You can be an​ example for others to learn from but don’t wait for them to change. All we can do is make changes to ourself and let go of what holds us back. We can love our parents unconditionally and be the best version of ourself!

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