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Counter Parenting

Counter parenting is when you have to spend time and energy undoing the damage that is being done by the other parent.

You hear a lot of people describe the frustrations of co-parenting with a narcissistic partner. I do not see this as co-parenting. If you are raising kids with a narcissistic partner, then you are counter parenting.

Counter parenting is when you are having to spend incredible amounts of energy undoing the damage done by the other parent. Before you can make healthy steps with your child, you first have to do some repair work. This applies whether you are still living in the same house or if you are divorced and/or separated. It applies whether you are sharing some form of joint custody, partial custody or even if they have no custody. They still find ways to damage their own offspring.

Most people agree that narcissistic parents do damage to their kids. But let’s get specific here. What exactly is that damage? What does it look like and feel like? We need to be able to name it and talk about it. Being able to pinpoint what it is helps to then be able to counter it with healthy parenting. If the mechanic can’t figure out what is specifically wrong with your car, then he can’t fix it. If you can’t pinpoint what it is that your child is struggling with, it is going to much harder to help them. Awareness is a huge step!

I found a fairly thorough list in Psychology Today of the damage that is done by a narcissistic parent. This isn’t the entire list. Narcissistic damage can be extensive. Take a look at this list and think about what applies in your situation. Add other damage that comes to mind.

Damage done by a narcissistic parent

  • The child doesn’t feel heard or validated.

  • The child’s feelings are not acknowledged.

  • The child does not know what reality is.

  • The child will not learn to trust their own feelings.

  • The child will have crippling self-doubt.

  • The child is not encouraged to develop their own sense of self.

  • The child exists only to please the narcissistic parent.

  • The child’s emotional development is stunted.

  • The child is taught that how they look and what they do is more important than how they feel.

  • The child will grow up feeling “not good enough.”

  • The child will not know how to develop healthy emotional connections.

  • The child will not learn how to set healthy boundaries in relationships.

  • The child is not taught to give credit to self when deserved.

  • The child believes he/she is unworthy and unlovable.

  • The child will experience unbearable amounts of shame and humiliation.

  • The child will often become either a high achiever or a self-saboteur.

Narcissistic damage is intense and real. It can have extremely long-lasting effects, especially if it is not addressed. The sooner your child receives attention, the better. Use this as a checklist. Mark the ones that apply to your child today. Start working on them now. As some of these improve, others may show up. That is normal. Depending on the severity and the length of exposure to narcissism, this could be a life-long journey of healing for your child. But it can be done! You can help your child get on a positive path in life. Start now.

This process can be a bit overwhelming for someone who is trying to counter parent with a narcissist. Narcissists are extremely good at what they do, which is to damage others. Their influence can feel all-consuming and never-ending. I admit that I was definitely overwhelmed at times. It seemed like too much to try to turn this all around. The damage just kept piling on top of itself, day after day after day. Some days, I felt that I was losing the battle. I threw my hands up and said, “I’m done,” on multiple occasions. But I had an awesome support team of family and friends around me. They kept picking me up and pushing me forward. If I can do it, so can you!

Everyone has scars from childhood!

Everyone! This realization helped me so much. Even healthy homes leave scars on children. Youngsters come into this world seeing their parents as perfect. As we all know, though, no one is. At some point, that bubble of perfection is going to burst, and this is earth-shattering for a child. No one escapes childhood unscathed. It just isn’t possible. Some of us, however, come out more wounded than others. Nonetheless, we all have some recovery work to do.

This thought allowed me to see that I wasn’t alone here and neither are my boys. We are all in it together!

Take a look again at the list above. Mark the ones that apply the most for your child right now. Put these on your radar and start watching for opportunities to counter them. Those opportunities WILL present themselves. You need to be ready when they do.

Coming next are follow-up articles with ways to counter these specific aspects of the damage. It all starts with awareness though. If you can’t identify the problems, they are impossible to face.So start identifying which ones apply right now for you. Others may show up down the road, but start with now.

Let me know which ones apply now for you and your child. As I hear back from the group, I will post about the ones that seem most dominant right now. Let’s open this discussion and help each other. You might be successfully dealing with damage in a way that another parent desperately needs to hear. Someone else might have suggestions that worked for them. Together we are stronger.

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I look forward to hearing from you.