Growing up with a narcissistic parent can be a challenge. You leave childhood feeling powerless and confused because they might have belittled your accomplishments, criticized you for not meeting their high expectations, or even invalidated your feelings. They might even have caused deep emotional pain in their attempts to control and manipulate you.
Or, they still might try to control you—even if you have grown up and moved out. There are ways to cope when dealing with a narcissistic parent and help you find the freedom to think, feel, and behave as you choose. Here are some strategies:
Set Boundaries and Stand Firm
To protect your emotional health and the newfound freedom you have as an adult, it’s essential to set boundaries. This can be difficult with a narcissistic parent because they may not respect your limits, may try to push these boundaries, or may even throw a fit if you don’t do as they say. It’s important to stand firm and remind yourself that you have the right to set your own boundaries.
For example, if you’re out with your parent and they start to criticize you, firmly state that you don’t appreciate or accept their criticism. Set a boundary and make it clear that you won’t tolerate it. That if they start to criticize you again, you will end the conversation. Or, you will leave the situation entirely.
Be Assertive, Not Aggressive
When setting boundaries or even just speaking to a narcissistic parent, it’s important to be assertive but not aggressive. This means that you should communicate your boundaries and limits in a firm but respectful manner. For example, if your parent is trying to manipulate you into doing something, calmly explain that you don’t appreciate their manipulations and that you don’t need to obey them.
This may be difficult to do, but it’s important to stay calm and not allow yourself to get drawn in. Remind yourself that you are the one in control of the conversation and that you are worth protecting—not allowing your narcissistic parent to manipulate or control you. Remind yourself of your own value.
Play to Their Ego (on Your Terms)
Narcissistic parents often have a large ego and need attention from you, others, or even themselves. Which you know all too well growing up with them. A tactic that may work is to play to their ego (on your terms). This may seem counterintuitive but it often works effectively. This is done by using flattery or compliments to get them to see things your way.
For example, if you are needing them to agree to your boundaries, you might say something like: “I really appreciate how supportive you have been of me in the past and I’m sure that you can understand why I need to set these limits.” Doing this makes them feel important and appreciated, which often helps them to better understand your point of view.
Separate Yourself Emotionally
One of the most effective ways to cope with a narcissistic parent is to create emotional distance. This means creating a healthy emotional space between you and your parent so that their words, comments, and criticisms don’t affect you in the same way as before. Rather than reacting to their behavior in a negative way, you can simply stand back and observe it without getting drawn into the hurt and drama.
Narcissists, and narcissistic parents included, can use their words and behavior to manipulate and control—but you don’t have to let them. Setting an emotional distance from your parent can help you to not take things personally or realize that their criticisms are more about them than you.
Remember, You Deserve Support
Dealing with a narcissistic parent can be draining and, at times, hard. It’s important to take care of yourself, remind yourself that you are worthy and deserving of love and support, and reach out to a therapist or support group. Especially, if you are in need of more guidance, help, and understanding. A therapist can provide the tools and insight you need to better understand their behavior and how to set healthy boundaries.
For instance, a therapist can help you to identify your triggers and create a strategy for effectively dealing with them. They can provide coping skills for difficult conversations or situations and also act as a support and sounding board. This way when you run into an issue with a narcissistic parent, you have a safe and trusted place to turn.
No matter what, it’s important to remember that you deserve support and love—no matter the behavior of your narcissistic parent. You don’t have to re-live the same patterns of behavior you experienced growing up. You have the power and strength to create healthier boundaries and relationships. So go out there and show them what you’re made of. You got this!
Interested in Working with a Therapist for Women in Orange County, CA?
Trying to find strategies to cope with a narcissistic parent can be tough. Especially, when you don’t have the right resources or support. At Moxie Family Therapy, we understand you want the freedom to feel safe and create healthy boundaries with your parent. Our team of caring therapists is here to help you find the strategies that will work best for you to navigate and cope with having a narcissistic parent. To start your therapy journey with Moxie Family Therapy, please follow these simple steps:
- Contact Moxie Family Therapy
- Meet with a caring therapist
- Begin figuring out strategies to cope with your narcissistic parent!
Other Therapy Services Offered at Moxie Family Therapy
At Moxie Family Therapy, we know growing up with a narcissistic parent can be overwhelming. Then navigating your way through adulthood can be even more difficult. This is why we go beyond helping you to cope. We provide a variety of therapy services online and in-person at our Orange County, CA-based practice. We offer counseling for young adults, children, women, teens, and couples. Additionally, we offer therapy for therapists, clinical supervision, adoption therapy, art therapy, and play therapy. Our team is also happy to support the LGBTQ+ community. Contact us today and learn how we can help you reclaim your moxie.
About the Author
Melissa Mellon, LMFT is a therapist in Orange County, CA, who offers a safe and supportive space for women with narcissistic parents. With her experience in helping clients work through family conflict and trauma, Melissa believes in developing attachment and unconditional love to create a healthy and loving home. She challenges her clients to work towards building a fulfilling life and offers consultation to see if she would be a good fit for their therapy journey.