There is a lot of information out there about what children should and shouldn't know during a divorce.
My children are adults. I've thought a lot about this, now and in the past, about what to say to them when the ex pulls his BS. Be it the pity party, mom bashing, doing crappy things to the kids or any other narc behavior. I've opted to mostly ignore my first psychiatrist who has told me on countless occasions to never discuss the ex with my kids. This was the same psychiatrist who failed to diagnose my narcissist ex for what he really was. Who believed the lies and seemed to think her excellent clinical work was responsible for the positive changes she witnessed in her office. Despite things getting worse at home. But that is another story. I think it will be the next one.
No one protected me from the narcissist, not my friends, family, psychiatrist.
No one, everything I learned, I learned on my own. It started with a newspaper article, then I took a normal, abnormal psychology course then I started doing my own literature review (reading journal articles, the pier reviewed papers that researchers and academics publish). If there is one thing I'm good at it's scientific research. I was armed with information, but never got any validation. I often wondered if I was being paranoid or over reacting.
Most people don't understand the crazy making or manipulation created by a narcissist. Not even their victims. To the victim the behavior is normal; you're the one with the problem. So if a child is raised by a narcissist, then that behavior is the norm. So we have two potential problems here. Unless there is some serious intervention, the child is likely to become a narcissist himself or herself or a victim of one. I was not going to let my children grow up with the same negative self-image that I had.
So what do you do with that information?
You get proactive and call attention to toxic behavior and the ex really knew how to dish that out. Although I didn't undermine my ex in front on the kids, something he did not reciprocate, I did set boundaries. I would take him aside point out his behavior and inform him if he did it again, I would speak up. And speak up I did. When he told one of his hero stories, where I was "freaking out" I called him out on it. When he made up arbitrary BS rules for the kids that made no sense, we discussed it, I gave him the opportunity to go back to the kids apologize and retract his statements. Because if he didn't I threatened to and heaven forbid if I undermined him. I did not allow him to disrespect me in front of the kids and I never made excuses for him. But most of all I never allowed them to treat me like he did.
I was the disciplinarian in the household because in his eyes it made me the bad guy. Nope, it made me the ones the kids respected. Like I said he tried to undermine me, going behind my back and the kids caught hell for it. They could thank their father for that; I set the punishment, not him. You can reason with a child and they will learn. You're the father, the adult, knew about the punishment so if you want to get angry with someone, get angry with him. If you teacher says you have to take the test and your father says you don't, if you listen to the wrong person, you're still getting a zero. You take responsibility for your own actions. In the end they always knew that I was the one that stood up for them, explained things to them, rationalized my decisions. Narcs cannot rationalize their decisions in a way that does not sound crazy.
What's most important is how much your children love and respect you.
A gentleman I worked with made a very wise comment to me one day. When you die, it doesn't matter what your social status is, how much money you made or how successful you are. What's really important is how much your children like you. That really stuck with me. I didn't want my children to feel the same way about me as I did about my parents. They didn't need to admire me or think I was the best mom on earth. I wanted them to respect me and like me as a person and I wanted them to feel loved, respected, important, and that they had a voice. I raised them to know that no matter what I loved them to the very depths of my soul that they could talk to me about anything, with out fear or ridicule.
I put a lot of thought into how I would achieve this. I treated them as how I would want to be treated. Mine would be a household of equals and I would be one of their guides. Unfortunately the other guide was a man-child with his own agenda. Parenting with a narcissist is not easy. You are constantly on your toes and you do have to set boundaries. As many boundaries that I set, he was still abusive. I always think that I could have set more and done it earlier in the relationship, but in my heart I know it wouldn't have mattered. At the very best he would have been tolerable and that means I would still be with him.
I feel like I'm all over the place with this blog. Rambling, but I wanted to communicate that not talking to your kids about your marriage or separation is not the same as educating them about toxic behavior. I did make a conscious decision, that if they hated me for calling out their father, then so be it. But if it meant they were happier and formed relationships with people who treated them with love and respect then it would be worth it. Fortunately, they like me. So I guess I did okay and I'm glad I ignored my psychiatrist.
I feel like I could have said this in a couple of sentences. Some psychiatrists don't know much about parenting with a narcissist. Discuss healthy boundaries and toxic behavior with your children. You can protect the children from the narcissist but don't protect the narcissist. Peace and hugs
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