Seven ways to survive a narcissistic parent

Children of narcissistic parents tend to suffer intensely, and for the most part, they also suffer alone.

People who grew up with narcissistic parents are likely to blame themselves for their caregivers’ actions and behaviours, leading to low self-esteem and mental health challenges in later life.

What is narcissism?

A narcissistic personality disorder is one of ten personality disorders and gets included in the diagnostic and statistical manual (DSM – 5) as a diagnosed mental health condition.


The characteristics associated with narcissistic personality disorder include:

  • A severe lack of empathy for others
  • A sense of self-importance and grandiosity
  • A strong desire to be admired and to feel superior to others

Growing up with narcissistic parents

If you grew up in an environment where one or both parents displayed narcissistic tendencies, your self-esteem and emotional well-being were likely severely impacted.

There is also the chance that you may experience many problems in your life without realising the root cause of your issues.


Suppose you suspect that your parents might be narcissistic or that you grew up in an environment where abusive behaviours got normalised. 

In that case, you may benefit from therapy to help you recover.

Dealing with the effects of having a narcissistic parent is not always easy.

However, with the proper treatment and support, you will begin to understand what happened to you and what type of narcissistic behaviours to look out for in the future.

Dealing with a narcissistic parent

When dealing with the narcissistic parent, knowledge is power and knowing what to do when the narcissist strikes can be helpful when protecting your emotional well being.

Your narcissistic parent may display a range of abusive behaviours that might confuse and upset you.

Shame and humiliation

Often, narcissistic parents are very possessive over their children and can feel profoundly threatened when their child begins to develop a sense of independence away from them.

Children of narcissistic parents usually grow up with low self-esteem and an eroded sense of self.

Unlike other children, the child who grew up with narcissistic parents will typically experience a sense of shame and humiliation and a stunt in their mental and emotional development.

How to heal from narcissism.

Those with narcissistic parents usually grow up to be high achievers or develop the propensity to self-sabotage, sometimes both.

Children of narcissistic parents must receive the care, compassion and support they deserve to heal from the pain the parent has caused.

Signs that your parent might be a narcissist

There are several key signs that your mother or father may have a narcissistic personality disorder.

They include:

  • Boasting about your achievements to others without offering you emotional support.
  • Demonstrating childish or selfish behaviour.
  • Constantly needing the spotlight on them – your mother or father loves to be the centre of attention and only wants the conversation to be about them.
  • When you don’t do what your mother or father wants you to do, they make you feel incredibly guilty.
  • They will do anything to be in control and are ruthless and unforgiving in their desire to be on top.
  • Being absent from significant life events
  • Blaming others for your problems when the issues stem from a lack of parental love and support
  • Being harsh and opinionated behind closed doors, but is always pleasant and puts up a front when other people are around
  • Failing to provide emotional nurturing and support to you
  • Using you for their personal gain and motivation
  • Exhibiting severe mood swings and volatile behaviour
  • Showing signs of annoyance and irritability when you need their time and attention

Implications on your mental health

Having a parent with a narcissistic personality disorder can severely affect your mental health and well being.

The narcissistic parent typically wears a mask of perfection that they present to the world.

Such parents get viewed as loving and nurturing in public, but when no one is around, they scream, rage, and criticise.

Narcissists view people as an extension of them.

One of the classical features of narcissism is that narcissists tend to believe that people are extensions of themselves.


Imagine, if you will, a person staring intently into a mirror, and all that gets reflected at them are visions of anger, rage, and vulnerability.

Here, you get some idea of what it’s like to be a narcissist; pretty much everything a narcissist accuses you of is usually a profound projection on their part.

The narcissistic parent

Any negative traits within the narcissist often get projected outwards to protect their fragile ego.

When you receive a negative jibe or comment from your narcissistic parent, it often reflects what they loathe within themselves.

Thus, in the parent-child dynamic, the parent will be possessive, control their child’s life entirely, and view their children as an extension of them.

Seven ways to survive a narcissistic parent

”Surviving” is the operative word when dealing with a narcissistic parent.

To heal from narcissistic abuse, you need to understand how such abuse manifests and what you can do to protect your mental health in the process.

1. Acceptance

Your narcissistic parent may never change their ways, and one of the first steps to recovery is accepting this truth, which can seem challenging at first.

According to mental health professionals, accepting who narcissists are will help alleviate any anxiety for the victims.

It would help if you remembered that any harsh words or accusations from your narcissistic parent are projections and do not say anything about you or your character.

Inherently, such projections are how narcissists feel about themselves.

People with narcissistic personality disorder are troubled individuals, and understanding this will allow you to be more self-compassionate when they turn their rage on you.

2. Recognise and resist gaslighting attempts

Another prevalent symptom of narcissism is gaslighting.

Sadly, many narcissistic parents gaslight their children by making them feel delusional or crazy.


Gaslighting is a severe form of emotional abuse and can make people second guess themselves and their reality.

For example, a parent may tell their child that the sky is brown when it’s blue or that the milk is yellow when it’s white.

It can be challenging to recognise when you are getting gaslighted, but being savvy about narcissistic traits and phrases can be helpful.

Moreover, concentrating on your emotional well being and self-esteem can also help you survive this form of narcissistic abuse.

3. Practise self-compassion

It may sound counter-intuitive to offer compassion to a narcissist, but you must understand that although they may never show it, it is highly likely that the narcissistic parent does care about you deep down.

Self – compassion

Moreover, practising self-compassion is just as important, if not more so, when dealing with a narcissistic parent.

After enduring a challenging upbringing that likely lacked compassion, practising it may seem complicated but not impossible.

Learning to self-soothe and give yourself all the compassion you never received from your parents is an excellent way to begin healing and self-love.

Putting your needs first

Children of narcissistic parents are taught to put their parents’ needs before their own, which creates a toxic dynamic where the child-turned-adult continues this pattern throughout their lives.

People must know that it’s okay to put their needs ahead of others and give themselves adequate time to recover from their childhoods.

4. Cultivate boundaries

Narcissists often test your boundaries to see if they can get away with it – which can be immensely frustrating for those trying to put some healthy boundaries in place and protect themselves from the narcissist’s whims.

Breaking the boundaries

Your narcissistic parent may turn up at your house unannounced or violate any family rules you have in place to get a reaction from you.

Narcissists often use provocative behaviours and phrases to ignite drama and conflict, such as name-calling, favouritism, and other attention-seeking behaviours.

The trick is to reinforce your boundaries and follow through on any consequences when those boundaries get violated.

You must be clear and firm about what you are unwilling to accept and may need to ask your narcissistic parent to leave if they continue their bad behaviour.

5. Find a support system you can rely on

Having a support group in place can be helpful, especially for those who have children and endured narcissistic abuse growing up.

Research shows that children of narcissistic parents often experience difficulty validating their children.

Leaning on a support network

Thus, cultivating support networks with other survivors of narcissistic abuse can help you work through any difficulties while gaining support and encouragement from people who understand your experience.

6. Build up your self-esteem and confidence

After years of narcissistic abuse from your mother or father, it may be no surprise that you’ll likely suffer from low self-esteem and self-worth.

Indeed, seeking events and activities that increase your confidence while developing your skillset will give you the booster to feel better in yourself.

7. Consider the prospect of getting professional help.

Growing up with a narcissistic parent can cause many complications in later life.

Unforeseen challenges often arise from children of narcissistic parents where their unresolved issues fester and grow.

Ongoing issues

Perhaps a person experiences chronic relationship issues or is always angry, confused, or stressed out for no plausible reason.

Explosions of anger with family and friends might be a common theme for survivors of narcissistic abuse.

Additionally, substance abuse and depression can also get added to the litany of complications – yet people often do not know what is causing them to react this way.

Childhood trauma

Such reactions are prevalent in childhood trauma.

Children who suffered at the hands of a narcissist would have internalised their experiences as a way of coping.

Trauma treatment

These coping mechanisms can lead to severe mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder

To understand more about how trauma treatment works, click here.

Fortunately, regardless of the many implications of narcissistic abuse, recovery is possible.

Moving forward

Under the guidance of a licensed therapist, you can begin to unpack any unresolved issues you may have pent up during childhood and start to resolve them.

You are not responsible for what occurred in your past.

However, you do have agency over how you move forward, which will give you the freedom to live the life you deserve. Contact a specialist at Camino Recovery today to find out more.

Ameet Braich - Camino Recovery Spain

Ameet Singh Braich, a distinguished Clinical Director at Camino Recovery, is renowned for expertise in addiction and trauma resolution. With 15+ years of experience, he transforms lives through a holistic therapeutic approach. His research focuses on childhood maltreatment's impact on cognitive, emotional, and social functioning.

A dynamic speaker and trainer, Ameet empowers clients to achieve lasting recovery, prioritizing trauma resolution and relapse prevention. His diverse training includes EAP, crisis intervention, and EMDR. Committed to positive transformation, Ameet equips individuals across fields to address challenges of addiction.

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