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6 Tips for Explaining Narcissism to a Child

by | Mar 14, 2023 | 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.

TINY - Pins - Short (5)It’s never easy to explain the complexities of human behavior to a child, especially when that behavior affects the way you parent.

But if you can get past any possible shame you might feel about having a narcissist in your life or family, there are several ways in which explaining narcissism to a child can be helpful.

It will help them understand what’s going on, protect them from being harmed by it, and even make it easier for them to cope with what might otherwise be an uncomfortable situation.

And when you’re child’s other parent is a narcissist, how you approach this is especially important.

Because no matter how terrible their other parent is, your child is going to identify with them to a certain point.

You don’t want to say anything that will make your kiddo feel bad about themselves.

Knowing how to explain narcissism to a child can be tricky, but I’m here to help!

Here are some tips for explaining narcissism to a child:

How to Explain Narcissism to a Child

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1. Keep It Simple

Explain narcissism in simple terms that a child can understand. Avoid using technical or complicated language that may confuse them.

For older kids, explain that narcissism is a personality disorder, not just a negative trait. Tell your child that narcissism is something that can’t be cured or “fixed” by anyone, not even you.

When I first started explaining narcissism to my child, I would tell her that the narcissist loved himself more than anyone else. I wanted her to understand that if she felt unloved by him, it wasn’t her fault.

As she began to notice other negative behaviors from him, I would simply say that’s who he is, and it has nothing to do with who she is.

2. Use Examples

Use examples that a child can relate to but don’t use your own personal experiences with the narcissist.

For example, you can explain that a narcissistic person may always want to be the center of attention and may not be able to see or understand other people’s feelings.

You can also help your child understand narcissism by showing them movies that feature narcissistic characters. My favorite is Tangled, where Mother Gothel is an obvious narcissist, and you can see it in the way she treats Rapunzel.

I also love that movie because you can see the impact her treatment has on Rapunzel and how Rapunzel finds her own strength and breaks free from Mother Gothel’s control.

3. Emphasize Empathy

Teach your child the importance of empathy and how to recognize other people’s emotions. Explain that narcissists may struggle with empathy, which can make it difficult for them to understand how others feel.

Narcissists have an inflated sense of self-importance and an excessive need for attention and admiration. These characteristics trump how other people feel, so the narcissist doesn’t care about how they affect the emotions of others.

In emphasizing empathy, you have a wonderful opportunity to teach your child more about this concept.

Empathy is essential for building healthy relationships and navigating social situations.

4. Encourage Healthy Self-Esteem

Explain to your child the difference between healthy self-esteem and narcissism. Emphasize the importance of valuing yourself while also valuing and respecting others.

And you also want to make sure that the way the narcissist treats your child doesn’t negatively impact their own self-esteem.

Let them know that it’s not their fault and that they didn’t do anything wrong by being born into this family situation.

Children need to understand that it’s not their fault that the narcissist is acting the way they do and treating them the way they are.

Narcissists are exceptionally good at making people feel like they are at fault for their own pain, but this is absolutely not true.

Help your child learn how not to let what the narcissist does or says get to them. You can explain that the narcissist puts other people down in order to make themselves look better in comparison.

5. Encourage Your Child to Ask Questions

Encourage your child to ask questions and express their feelings. Be prepared to answer their questions and provide reassurance and support.

When you’re trying to figure out how to explain narcissism to a child, it’s important to create an atmosphere of open communication, understanding, and acceptance.

Your child is going to have questions, and you want to make sure they don’t feel ashamed asking them.

Listen to your child without judgment, and don’t try to change the way they feel. Encourage them to ask the questions and provide simple and relevant answers.

6. Be Age-Appropriate When Explaining Narcissism to a Child

Tailor your explanation to your child’s age and level of understanding. Younger children may need simpler explanations, while older children may be able to handle more complex concepts.

If you’re not sure how much your child will truly understand, keep it simple (just like tip number one). As your kiddo starts to grasp the concepts you are explaining, you can begin to add more detail.

But even if your child is older, don’t overwhelm them with explanations. Overall, they simply need to understand that narcissists prioritize themselves and treat people in ways they don’t deserve in order to get what they want.

Why is Explaining Narcissism to a Child Important?

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Children of narcissists often grow up feeling neglected, unloved, and emotionally deprived.

Narcissistic parents often prioritize their own needs and desires over those of their children, leading to a lack of emotional attunement, validation, and support.

As a result, children of narcissists may struggle with self-esteem, have difficulty expressing their emotions, and struggle to form healthy relationships.

They may also develop maladaptive coping mechanisms, such as people-pleasing, perfectionism, or self-sabotage.

It’s important for children of narcissists to develop healthy coping mechanisms and to learn to set boundaries with their narcissistic parent.

By prioritizing their own needs and well-being, children of narcissists can break the cycle of dysfunction and build a fulfilling and satisfying life for themselves.

And this means helping your child understand what is truly going on instead of having them try to sort it out on their own – which can lead them to internalize the way the narcissist treats them and blame themselves.

How to Deal With the Narcissist as a Parent

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It’s one thing when it comes to explaining narcissism to a child and another when it comes to how you deal with the narcissist.

When your child’s other parent is narcissistic, it’s a complicated juggling act between taking care of your side of things and taking care of your child.

But addressing both sides is necessary when it comes to making the situation better for your family.

If you’re not sure how to deal with a narcissist, here are steps to get you started:

Don’t give them attention.

When a narcissist is being mean or making fun of your child, don’t react or give them attention. You may feel like standing up for your child and defending them, but this will only make things worse in the long run.

If you feel like responding to a comment made by someone who has narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), keep in mind that all criticism comes from their own issues with themselves and not from anything about you or your family member/friend/partner/coworker, etc.

They are projecting their own feelings onto others so that they can avoid dealing with those feelings themselves!

If someone says something negative about you, it doesn’t matter because whatever negative things they say aren’t true anyway!

Remember: Narcissists always lie when trying to put down others, so don’t believe anything they say unless there is hard evidence supporting such claims.

Keep the focus on your child, not the narcissist.

When you’re talking to your child about the narcissist, focus on them.

Don’t talk about how the narcissist makes you feel or what they did to you. Instead, talk about what your child feels and needs.

Talk about their strengths, interests, and personality traits – all of which are important parts of who they are as a person independent of the actions of others.

Remember that you are not to blame for the narcissist’s behavior.

It’s important that you don’t blame yourself for the narcissist’s behavior.

Remember, they are responsible for their own feelings and actions, not you!

You may feel like you’ve tried everything to help them see how they’re hurting themselves and others, but often times the best thing we can do is walk away from toxic relationships and let them learn their lessons on their own time.

You are not at fault for your child’s narcissistic parent, and you can help them cope without taking responsibility for those behaviors.

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Explaining Narcissism to a Child

When figuring out how to explain narcissism to a child, you don’t need to worry about making your child feel bad or guilty.

You are not responsible for their narcissistic parent’s behavior, and you can help them cope without taking responsibility for those behaviors.

The most important thing is that they know that they are loved and have someone who cares about them unconditionally no matter what happens in life!

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