Narcissistic Parents.. ‘Too toxic for us, too toxic for our children’

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All children need their grandparents, right? You can’t deprive your children from seeing them. Our culture tells us this long and loud, and of course we believe it.

And so we can find ourselves in the trap that even if our parents are toxic or abusive to us, we feel obliged to let them have access to our children.

The problem is that our toxic parents are just as dangerous to our children as they are, or were, to us. This applies no matter the toxicity – my own area of interest is in narcissistic parents/grandparents, but it applies to abusers of all sorts. My motto is: Too toxic for us, too toxic for our children.

I know that you can feel guilty when you think of depriving your children of their grandparents. But the correct word isn’t ‘deprive’, it’s ‘protect’.

We not only have the right to protect our children from any toxic and abusive people, no matter how closely related they are, but as a parent we have the responsibility to do so too.

The grandparents we’re ‘depriving’ them of are not the cuddly, apple-pie-making, smiling, rosy-cheeked grandparents of popular culture and even our own imagination. They are, in this case, toxic, manipulative abusers. Even if things look good on the surface, along with the apple-pie making or the fishing trip will be a dose of manipulation and brainwashing and digs and sly hurts. If not worse. This can leave our children very confused as they too have the cultural imagery of kindly grandparents, and the abuse can be subtle so they’re not sure what’s going on.

Toxic grandparents can often seduce our children too, not necessarily sexually unless that’s the form of the abuse, but emotionally and psychologically. Depending on the dysfunction, they might try and seduce our children away from us by being more permissive and generous than us, for example. Many parents have literally lost their children this way because as soon as the children are old enough they move in with the grandparents, either literally or metaphorically.

If you do decide to restrict your children’s access to your abusive parents or parents-in-law, be prepared for your children’s reaction. Depending on the exact circumstances, they might be relieved, but equally likely they might have been seduced enough that they want to see their grandparents and can’t understand why this isn’t possible any more.

For them it’s a real bereavement and can be hard to handle. It’s hard to see our children in pain, but like a lot of parenting decisions we are inflicting the smaller pain now to save the bigger pain later.

Try to explain in age-appropriate terms why they can’t see Grandma or Grandpa any more, and comfort them for their loss when they are upset. They might well be angry with you too, because you’re the one stopping this relationship, and that’s a price you’ll have to pay for protecting them, unfortunately.

But protecting them is ultimately our job, and so we do it.

One Comment

  1. Mandy

    August 13, 2016 at 5:56 am

    I am looking for answers and help. We have been in contact with my husbands narc parents who have been described as off the charts by a specialist in their controlling behaviour and high standards. They even threatened to find out who our therapist is and close them down! I could go on and on about what they have done – and how they have destroyed our reputations through absolute lies. I could write a book. It is really quite appalling – we were both at breaking point 2 years ago. Since then my husband has been no contact. Although he has never been able to verbally stand up to them. The text messages are starting again about how much she misses all of us etc. etc.. I had a call and message to say she accidentally called me. I had an anxiety episode when i saw her number. Family members have warned us about being in contact saying we need to protect ourselves. They are the ones who told about them destroying our reputations but thankfully they never told us what was said. I have a loving supportive family and thought this was the always the norm in society. Never did i hear the word paternal narcissistic disorder until 2 years ago. My MIL wants control of my husband and our children. To keep her at bay my husband has suggested just skyping once a month with the kids. He does not want to speak with them. I know how manipulative this lady is, she draw you in and then BANG, u don’t even know what is happening. We have almost had emotional breakdowns over her behaviour. We thought it was our marriage but for 2 years we have had martial bliss.

    I just don’t know what to do. I do know she will it her life mission to bring me down as she blames everything on me. She never had problems with her son before i was on the scene (yeh right). my husbands brother suicided 5 years ago so i am always worried about my husbands mental health and he has a very very stressful job where he needs to be really sharp otherwise lives will be at risk.

    I feel like a monthly Skype is putting my kids on platter to her. Then i am trying to be reasonable thinking well we are listening to everything so can manage the call (the kids are 7 & 8). They think the problem with the grandparents is just because their son suicided 8 years ago. The Dad is such an angry man I feel he could potentially take everything out on me. He also thinks it is me. 2 years ago, my husband broke down and told me about his upbringing and how his parents expected perfection. She wrote his school speeches, he was told 99% is never good enough, they even used to request our kids school reports and husbands work appraisal at 42 years old (he is in a very senior role)

    Is there someone I could get some advice based on experience. My husband thinks because he wasn’t hit and sexually abused it is still maybe recoverable. 2 years ago i thought he was going to suicide when his parents turned on him. He did random stuff like went surfing in the dark, he was at breaking point. That is when he saw a therapist and since then everything is going amazing. He acknowledges they are really screwed up. It has been a long road, a road I never would like to walk on again! I can’t help but feel this is the calm before the storm, i know this lady and she is the epitomy of evil!

    Any help or advice would be great!
    Thanks, Mandy

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