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Narcissistic Parents and Child Anxiety Symptoms: 10 Things to Look For

by | Jun 9, 2022 | 0 comments

The term “narcissism” on this blog is used to describe a specific set of personality traits. It is not intended to be used as a professional diagnosis.

Are you worried that your child’s narcissistic parent is causing them anxiety?

This is a completely legit concern for anyone to have when they are trying to co-parent with a narcissist.

I know I went through it with my daughter, and it was a very rocky road.

A narcissistic parent can definitely have a negative impact on their child’s mental health.

Understanding the 10 key signs to look for will help you advocate for your child and protect them.

Having a better understanding of what my daughter was dealing with helped me approach the situation in a way that was supportive and helpful.

If you’re in the same boat, you are not alone!

Let’s look at how narcissistic parents can cause anxiety, what child anxiety symptoms to look for, and what you can do to help your child.

Can Having a Narcissistic Parent Cause Anxiety?

Unfortunately, it can.

Narcissistic parents often create an emotionally unstable and unpredictable environment, which can take a toll on a child’s mental well-being.

Children of narcissistic parents learn that their goals and needs are unimportant.

Children are also smart and highly perceptive, and they pick up on the dynamics within their family.

When they are exposed to a narcissist’s behavior, they may feel like they are walking on eggshells, never knowing what to expect. ????

This constant stress and uncertainty cause children to experience anxiety.

Signs of Anxiety in Children of Narcissists

Okay, let’s look at the child anxiety symptoms you should watch out for if you are co-parenting with a narcissist.

Just keep in mind that children don’t typically experience all of these symptoms, but it’s still important to keep an eye out for them.

1. Excessive Worry

One of the most common child anxiety symptoms is excessive worry. Kids with anxiety may fret about different aspects of their lives, from academic performance to their relationship with their narcissistic parent.

For example, your child may constantly worry about how their other parent will react when they bring home a report card with less-than-perfect grades.

2. Difficulty Sleeping

Anxiety can often manifest as sleep disturbances and a child with anxiety may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep because of anxious thoughts.

They may toss and turn at night, unable to relax because they fear things like their narcissistic parent’s reaction to the tiniest mistakes.

3. Irritability and Mood Swings

As the mother of a tween, I know that kids are going to be irritable and mood-swingy once they reach a certain age. It’s inevitable.

However, children exposed to narcissistic behavior may experience this irritability and swinging of moods more frequently than their peers.

For instance, your child may become easily angered or upset over the smallest things. You know your child best, so you’ll know if this is a concern or a normal part of their development.

If this does concern you, you can always reach out to a mental health professional.

4. Perfectionism

Children of narcissistic parents often develop issues with perfectionism and become afraid that any mistake or misstep is going to result in criticism or disapproval.

This kind of fear may prevent them from trying new things or admitting to their mistakes.

Or they may insist on redoing tasks repeatedly to make sure they are done “perfectly.”

5. Social Withdrawal

Anxiety can lead to social withdrawal when a child avoids social situations that trigger their anxiety.

They may withdraw from family members and friends because they feel anxious over how they are perceived and potentially judged.

6. Physical Symptoms

Anxiety can cause physical symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, and fatigue.

If your child is anxious, they might complain about frequent stomachaches, especially before or after interactions with their narcissistic parent.

7. Difficulty Concentrating

Children with anxiety often have a hard time focusing on tasks, which can lead to struggles with school and other activities.

For example, your child may struggle to concentrate on homework because they’re preoccupied with their narcissistic parent’s opinions.

8. Low Self-Esteem

Constant criticism and emotional manipulation from a narcissistic parent can damage a child’s self-esteem.

They may begin to express feelings of inadequacy and doubt their self-worth.

9. Conflict Avoidance

Children of narcissists can become conflict-averse and avoid expressing their own needs and desires to prevent their other parent from becoming upset.

They may become overly agreeable or hesitate to voice their preferences to avoid confrontation.

10. Hypervigilance

Children with anxiety may develop hypervigilance, which means they are constantly scanning their environment for potential threats and triggers.

They may become extremely attentive to the moods and actions of others, trying to anticipate their behavior.

How You Can Help

As a mom co-parenting with a narcissistic, you have a pivotal role in supporting your child through these challenges.

Here are some ways you can help:

Open Communication

Encourage your child to express their feelings and thoughts in a safe and non-judgmental environment.

Be an active listener and validate their emotions. Let them know that it’s okay to talk about their feelings and that you’re there to support them.

You should also create opportunities for open conversations where they can express themselves without fear of criticism or reprisal.

Provide Stability

Create a stable and predictable routine in your home to counterbalance the instability they may experience elsewhere. Predictability can offer a sense of security for your child.

Ensure they have a consistent daily schedule, bedtime routine, and clear expectations. This stability can help reduce their anxiety by providing a sense of control in their lives.

Seek Professional Help

Consider involving a therapist or counselor to help your child navigate their anxiety and develop coping strategies.

I did this, and it made a world of difference!

A qualified mental health professional can offer specialized support for your child’s unique situation. They can help your child manage their anxiety, teach them how to regulate their emotions and guide your child through the challenges they face.

Set Boundaries

Teach your child healthy boundaries and empower them to assert themselves when necessary. Help them understand that it’s okay to say no and to communicate their limits.

You can also encourage them to stand up for themselves when they feel uncomfortable or threatened.

Also reinforce the importance of personal boundaries, both in interactions with their narcissistic parent and in their relationships with others.

Model Self-Care

Demonstrate the importance of self-care and stress management to your child. Show them how to prioritize their mental health by taking time for self-care activities.

By setting this example, you’re teaching your child the importance of self-compassion and how to cope with stress in healthy ways.

Help them to explore activities that help them relax and unwind.

Promote Resilience

Help your child build resilience by focusing on their strengths, encouraging problem-solving skills, and reminding them of their capabilities and past successes.

Encourage them to develop problem-solving skills and learn from their experiences. By building resilience, your child can better handle challenging situations and bounce back from adversity.

Co-Parenting Strategies

Establish clear and consistent co-parenting boundaries and communication methods with your ex-partner. Collaborate on parenting decisions, schedules, and guidelines.

Maintain a business-like, fact-based communication style when dealing with the narcissistic parent. Document interactions and avoid engaging in emotional conflicts.

This will help create a more stable co-parenting environment for your child.

This is actually called parallel parenting, and you can learn more about it here!

Support Network

Ensure your child has access to a supportive network of friends, family, and trusted adults outside the family environment.

You can encourage them to maintain positive relationships with people who support and care for them, like their friends or other family members.

These connections can be a source of stability and comfort for your child, helping them feel understood and loved despite the challenges they face at home.

How Can I Tell If My Child Has an Anxiety Disorder?

So it’s one thing to consider child anxiety symptoms, but actually, disorders are a whole other thing.

Experiencing anxiety symptoms is a natural response to stress or challenging situations and can simply be a temporary emotional reaction to something.

It becomes an anxiety disorder when these symptoms persist, are excessive or irrational, and interfere with someone’s ability to function normally every day.

To say whether or not your child has an anxiety disorder is really up to a mental health professional. But here is an idea of what anxiety disorders in children look like:

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is characterized by an intense fear of social situations and a persistent fear of negative evaluation by others.

If your child has this condition, they may:

  • Exhibit extreme shyness and avoidance of social interactions, especially with peers.
  • Fear judgment, embarrassment, or humiliation in social situations.
  • Have physical symptoms like blushing, trembling, or a racing heart when in social situations.
  • Show a strong desire to avoid specific activities or events where they may be the center of attention.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder is marked by excessive, uncontrollable worry and fear about various aspects of life. Your child might have this disorder if they:

  • Worry excessively about everyday things like school, family, or friendships.
  • Exhibit restlessness, difficulty concentrating, and physical symptoms like muscle tension.
  • Complain of physical symptoms like headaches or stomachaches that lack a clear medical explanation.
  • Are perfectionistic and excessively concerned about making mistakes or disappointing others.

Other Anxiety Disorders in Children

n addition to the above, children can experience various other anxiety disorders, such as specific phobias, separation anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. Look for the following signs that might indicate your child has an anxiety disorder:

  • Excessive fear or avoidance of specific objects or situations (specific phobia).
  • Overly clingy behavior or extreme distress when separated from you (separation anxiety disorder).
  • Sudden and intense episodes of fear, often accompanied by physical symptoms like a racing heart and shortness of breath (panic disorder).

Just remember that it can be challenging to distinguish normal childhood worries from an anxiety disorder.

However, if your child’s anxiety is interfering with their daily life, affecting their school performance, or causing significant distress, it may be an anxiety disorder.

If this is the case, it’s so important that you seek professional help from a therapist or counselor who specializes in anxiety disorders in children.

Early intervention and appropriate support can make a significant difference in helping your child manage their anxiety and lead a happier, healthier life!

Guiding Your Child Through the Storm: Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

I know that trying to co-parent with a narcissist can be challenging and frustrating, especially when the situation is negatively affecting your child.

Understanding the potential impact of a narcissistic parent on your child’s mental health is the first step toward helping them.

Your role as a mom co-parenting with a narcissist is not an easy one, but your love, resilience, and determination are going to help empower your child to weather the storm!

Does your child struggle with anxiety? How do you help them out? Share your experiences in the comments below!



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