Narcissists are incapable of developing and sustaining genuine relationships of any kind with spouse or children in particular. (This applies to male and female narcissists.) They are parents in name only. Many of them spend most of their time away from their kids. They can’t be bothered taking time and patience to listen to their children, comfort them when they are upset, encourage them with school, show deep affection and love for them. So many children of narcissists with whom I have communicated describe their lives with a narcissistic parent as horrific. Those who are not the golden child and don’t have the physical attractiveness, academics, athletic prowess, social skills, etc. that the narcissistic parent values, find themselves marginalized and demeaned.
The narcissist parent is obsessed with his/her image. Because of this need for narcissistic supplies these parents make sure that to those living outside of the home, there is a look of perfection and normalcy about this family. A portrait of loving attentive parents is cleverly created for public image purposes for the narcissist.
To keep his/her children quiet and in control, narcissistic parents who have the means often use money and generous gifts as a way of buying off their children. This becomes a way of life for them. Money is used in exchange for love. Some children of narcissists go along with these manipulations; others recognize that their parent(s) is incapable of genuinely loving them. The narcissistic parent makes empty promises that are never kept. Some children remain tied to the narcissistic parent in a psychologically parasitic relationship. These children never grow up and realize their potential. They spend their lives waiting for something that will never come—genuine love. In exchange they accept the narcissistic parent(s) gifts, material largess and special privileges of being part of the familial inner circle.
Children who awaken to this truth go through painful realizations, recognizing that their parent cannot love. This is a difficult psychological and emotional process for children of narcissists. Surprisingly, many children of narcissistic parents are loving human beings, capable of deep empathy.
Coming to terms with the process of severing the relationship with a narcissistic parent is a complex process. There is a period of grieving over the loss of not having a parent–the person from whom you needed unconditional love. Some of these children benefit from psychotherapy in working through these painful issues. Part of the healing process is in their recognition that they are loving individuals, capable of emotional and psychological intimacy.
Some adult children find that healing practices like gentle hatha yoga and meditation help to quiet their body/mind, attain a deep sense of inner peace, detach from the narcissistic parent and rediscover and appreciate the unique authentic human being that they are.