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Unraveling Traits of Children with Narcissistic Parents

Ever wonder why some youngsters appear to bear the brunt of everything?

Ever wonder why some youngsters appear to bear the brunt of everything? They might be wrestling with an invisible adversary, one that’s often dismissed or misunderstood – growing up under traits of children of narcissistic parents.

This isn’t just about ‘tough love’ or high expectations. We’re talking about a childhood overshadowed by emotional absence and excessive admiration, where kids learn love is conditional and will feel guilty for wanting basic respect.

In this journey, we’ll unmask these traits together, shedding light on how they form and on ways to heal from such deep-seated wounds. You’ll discover how trauma therapy can help you navigate through chronic shame towards self-love.

Hope is also ahead. We’re going to give you some tips for setting healthy boundaries with your narcissistic family member.

Understanding the Traits of Children with Narcissistic Parents

Let’s dive into the emotional landscape of children who grow up with parents who have narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

The Role of Psychological Control in Narcissistic Parenting

Narcissistic parents, known for their excessive admiration and feelings of superiority, often wield psychological control like a weapon.

Some of the signs of narcissistic parenting include gaslighting, an intolerance of disobedience, and criticizing their children for maintaining superiority behind closed doors. They expect validation perfection, are unsympathetic, and lack empathy or concern for their child’s well-being.

This control isn’t openly abusive but is more insidious. It sows seeds that can cause lifelong damage to a child’s sense of self and identity. Children of narcissists typically suffer from codependency (people-pleasers: taking care of others over taking care of themselves).

In these families, children learn how to navigate around their parent’s egos early. They become experts at managing emotions, not theirs (ignoring their own needs) — an unhealthy trait that can persist into adulthood.

The Dark Triad Traits in Narcissistic Parents

Narcissism forms one corner of what psychologists call ‘the dark triad’—a trifecta also including psychopathy and Machiavellianism. The presence or absence of these traits within a family unit dramatically influences childhood experiences. Psychology Today explores this further here.

Nine Narcissistic Traits

Use the acronym “SPECIAL ME” to remember the nine personality traits of NPD. 

  1. Sense of self-importance (self-absorbed)
  2. Preoccupation with power, beauty, or success 
  3. Entitled (Entitlement)
  4. Can only be around people who are important or special
  5. Interpersonally exploitative for their own gain
  6. Arrogant
  7. Lack of empathy
  8. Must be admired (must be the center of attention)
  9. Envious of others or believe that others are envious of them

Impact Of Narcissistic Parenting On Child’s Mental Health

Chronic Shame And Self-blame In Adult ChildrenAdults who grew up with narcissistic parents commonly carry burdensome feelings: low self-esteem, chronic shame coupled with relentless self-blaming. Narcissistic parents will often abandon the parent-child relationship for a sort of best-friend relationship, where the parent will use the child to self-regulate fears and anxiety, whatever parent’s needs which are not being met.

child of a narcissistic parent
Child of a narcissistic parent

It was a shame because they were made scapegoats by their own blood – forced into carrying the blame for problems created by others.

To feed their delicate egos, narcissists chip away at their children’s self-esteem and self-worth with critical and condescending comments.

They question themselves frequently, believing perhaps it was indeed all of them – creating internal chaos leading to mental health issues.

More classic symptoms of complex traumatic stress disorder:

  • Emotional numbing
  • Dissociation
  • Distrust and fear in relationships
  • Emotional regulations problems. 
  • Flashbacks- Emotional and physical
  • Difficulty with healthy relationships
  • Self-loathing and a particularly vicious inner critic. 
  • Arousal dysregulation of the nervous system. (problems with fight, flight, freeze, submit)
  • Stress-related health problems

The Trauma Symptoms Experienced By Adult Children

The journey from childhood to adulthood under the influence of a narcissistic parent is akin to walking barefoot on shattered glass – every step is painful, and each stride is drenched in dread.

From feelings of unease and despair to more serious conditions like Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the scope of psychological issues is wide. Mental wellness is a crucial aspect of overall health that we must prioritize.

Key Takeaway: 

Children growing up with narcissistic parents often navigate a complex emotional landscape. These kids learn to manage their parent’s emotions, which can harm their own sense of self and identity into adulthood. The presence of ‘dark triad’ traits (narcissism, psychopathy, Machiavellianism) in these families deeply affects the child’s experience. As such experiences unfold, they cast long shadows over the child’s growth and development.

Impact of Narcissistic Parenting on Child’s Mental Health

The fallout from narcissistic parenting can echo through a child’s life like an ominous toll. It seeps into their mental health, leaving marks that are hard to erase.

Chronic Shame and Self-Blame in Adult Children

If adult children have a narcissistic father or mother, it often makes children feel guilty for their own shortcomings. The kids then internalize this guilt as chronic shame and self-blame.

This cycle creates a toxic shame where the adult child feels responsible for everything wrong, even when it’s not their fault.

The Trauma Symptoms Experienced by Adult Children

A dark aftermath of narcissistic abuse manifests itself as trauma symptoms later in life.

We’re talking sleep disorders, anxiety attacks, or depression bouts – all consequences of enduring childhood stress disorder caused by parental neglect and emotional abuse (guilt-tripping, manipulating). (source) Note: This could also lead to insecure attachment styles with other family members due to the absence of emotional availability from the parent.

You may find yourself feeling selfish while trying to care about others because your basic needs were never met during childhood. And yes, those needs include love based on respect – something missing in many homes with highly narcissistic parents.

The fallout of narcissistic parenting doesn’t stop at emotional absence. It extends to creating difficulty making decisions as the child grows due to constant second-guessing and self-doubt implanted by the parent’s actions.

Children often end up feeling bewildered and adrift, which can be directly linked to the continuous distortion of their reality by a narcissistic parent. (source)

Key Takeaway: 

Narcissistic parenting leaves lasting scars on a child’s mental health, fostering chronic guilt and self-blame. This emotional fallout often morphs into trauma symptoms like sleep disorders or depression later in life. It can also disrupt decision-making abilities due to the ingrained habit of second-guessing oneself. If any of this resonates with you, remember that help is out there – you’re not alone in this journey.

Healing Process for Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents

The healing process is a journey, often long and winding. For adult children who have suffered from narcissistic abuse, it can be an uphill battle, and they will have a hard time dealing with things around them.

adult children of narcissists
Adult children of Narcissists

The Role of Trauma Therapy in Healing

Trauma therapy plays a pivotal role in the healing process. It aids adult children by unpacking layers of complex trauma inflicted during childhood.

It’s about regulating emotions that were once suppressed due to fear or covert manipulation from the highly narcissistic parent. One of the therapies that could help victims overcome this kind of situation is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), as it helps them to identify harmful thought patterns instilled by abusive behavior.

This kind of therapy offers strategies to challenge these thoughts effectively. Over time, this leads to improved victims’ mental health and reduced feelings of toxic shame and other unwanted trauma.

The Benefits of Online Therapy for Healing

In our digital age today, online therapy has emerged as another powerful tool on the path toward healing from traumas. This approach provides easy access to experienced therapists regardless of geographical boundaries – you get help right at your fingertips.

A crucial part is that it allows one-on-one sessions with trauma therapists specialized in dealing with effects stemming from having a narcissistic mother or father.

Online psychiatrists, equipped with knowledge about family units affected by domestic violence caused by such parents, also offer invaluable support.

Setting Healthy Boundaries with Narcissistic Parents

Establishing healthy boundaries is a significant step for adult children on their healing journey. In order to start setting boundaries you have to identify first these boundaries that you wanted. 

Interested to learn these things? Tips on setting boundaries will be discussed further in the latter part, so keep reading.

The Importance of Respecting Boundaries in Relationships

Balancing respect and self-preservation can be tricky. Protecting one’s mental health should be a priority when setting boundaries; this is not an act of selfishness.

Clear communication is something psychologists highly recommend. Establishing effective communication is essential for the achievement of any relationship, whether it be intimate or business-related. Ensuring your thoughts and ideas are easily understood can save a lot of confusion and miscommunication.

Narcissistic parents often disregard boundaries. This leaves their children feeling violated and disrespected.

Key Takeaway: 

Healing from narcissistic parental abuse is a journey. Trauma therapy, including CBT and online sessions with specialists, can help unravel the complex childhood trauma layers. Setting healthy boundaries isn’t selfish but crucial for safeguarding mental health; clear communication aids this process.

To combat this, you need to make sure they understand your limits.

Tips for Setting Healthy Boundaries with Narcissistic Parents

  1. Create Clear Lines: Be clear about what’s acceptable and what’s not. Leave no room for interpretation or manipulation by the narcissistic parent.
  2. Maintain Your Ground: Stand firm on your decisions. Don’t let guilt trips or emotional blackmail sway you.
  3. Become Aware: Recognize when a boundary has been crossed. This is key, as it can be hard to set healthy boundaries if you’re unsure where the line should be drawn.
  4. Get help: If unclear, consider seeking help from a professional therapist experienced in dealing with family relationships involving narcissism. This includes improving self-care, self-confidence, and letting go of the people-pleasing mentality.
  5. Lay Down The Law: You possess the authority to specify who is allowed into your life and what parameters they must adhere to. If anyone – including family members – violates these terms, consequences must follow. Being consistent here helps maintain the respect needed between both parties involved.

Now, this might not be an easy step or task, but it would make a difference in your mental health and personal growth.

FAQs in Relation to Traits of Children of Narcissistic Parents

  • What does a narcissist parent do to a child?
  • Who are the victims of narcissistic parents?
  • What are the four kinds of children in a narcissistic family?
  • What is the scapegoat of a narcissistic mother?


Grasping the traits of children of narcissistic parents isn’t easy. Yet, you’ve done it. You’ve discovered how these traits are born from a childhood steeped in emotional absence and excessive admiration.

You’ve seen the scars – chronic shame, self-blame, and trauma symptoms that can linger into adulthood. But you also know there’s hope for healing with methods like trauma therapy or online therapy.

You now understand the importance of setting healthy boundaries with your narcissistic family member. It’s not about pushing them away but about safeguarding your mental health.

The journey doesn’t end here, though; every day is an opportunity to grow stronger, healthier, and more aware than before!