We often talk about toxic exes or narcissists and how to protect ourselves, but we often neglect these individuals' damage to our children. I have spent the past ten years studying how to protect children that must interact with a parental figure that is toxic.
I have found three key things that children dealing with a narcissistic parent need to resist the gas-lighting or other abusive tactics a narcissist will employ. I'm saying that when the courts and police don't help in the meaningful ways that children need to be safe from an abuser, there are some things you can do to give them a good foundation to grow from so your child will be ok given the enormous situation they face.
The first one is connection. It would be best if you connected in meaningful ways with your child so that they would trust you. Connection is so important because the narcissist is doing everything they can to destroy the bond you have with your children. Relationships can be challenging for you if you happen to have a narcissistic parent yourself. I help my clients discover their inner child and use that to form the basis of their connection with their children. "What do you like to do as a kid, well do that with them!" It sounds simple, but if your parent was a narcissist, you were raised trying to please other people and not focusing on your own needs or being a child.
The next one is to validate your child; you must hear them out. You have to hold space for your child and not judge what they say but validate their feelings. The narcissistic parent is not validating them because the kids are seen as an extension of themselves and not as a separate person, but this is where you step in. Hold space, hear them out, and validate what they say, don't be so quick to say no.
A fun game I would play would be, "I hear what you are saying, so help me get to yes." Mommy is saying no because of "x," so what can you suggest that will get me to yes! This game does two things, and it lets them know that their opinion matters and you respect that; it also engages their imagination, which is critical if the other parent is abusive. Imagination is the spark of hope. Another game you can play is the know your truth game. You can say my shoes are green, which is the wrong color, and have your child correct you, "no mommy your shoes are blue." This is a fun game and can help kids against the gas-lighting attempts from the toxic parent.
The last one is to empower your child to speak their mind. Gone are the days of parenting with the do as I say because I'm the grown-up. We are not raising kids to work in the factories or be good soldiers, so our parenting needs to reflect innovation, independence, and empowerment to help them make good life choices. The relationship you build is one of respect, unconditional love, and the strength to hold onto what is important to them. Your job as their parent is to give them the tools in their toolbox to thrive.
All of these must be exaggerated because you are compensating for two parents, especially if one is working against you.
I never said it was easy, but for the parents that are committed to breaking the cycle of abuse for the next generation, I'm here for you.
My strategy for parents to support their children who are dealing with a toxic ex -
Read my article on how to communicate with a toxic parent in a court approved way. I also give an example of how to talk during exchanges that helps to minimize arguments by combining yellow rock with Bill Eddy's BIFF communication style. Good luck mama, you've got this!
Learn how to protect yourself and your kids from threats of court, claims of alienation, and gain confidence in how and what you communicate with your ex.