Narcissistic Parental Alienation (NPA) is the manipulation of children by one parent to reject or fear another parent. NPA can be harmful for both parents and children. If you are experiencing symptoms, it is essential to search for solutions and seek professional help. There is a good range of support and approaches available.
What is narcissistic parental alienation?
NPA is a form of abuse where one parent turns a child or children against another parent. This can result in children becoming afraid of the other parent or being outright hostile towards them. NPA can take place in respect of any partner in any relationship where children are being raised.
It is important to identify and address NPA when it occurs. Not only is it hugely damaging to the relationship between the child and the affected parent, but it has also been shown to have significant negative impacts on the mental health of the child, and can lead to depression, anger, anxiety, and substance abuse.
It is important to note that NPA does not apply where one of the parents is being genuinely abusive to the child or their partner, when safeguarding concerns should always take priority.
Symptoms of narcissistic parental alienation syndrome
All children and parents are different, as are their relationships. NPA can, therefore, present in a huge range of different ways. There are, however, some common symptoms that are good indicators that NPA may be taking place.
Alienating behaviours of the narcissistic parent
This can begin as simply as regular negative remarks about one parent made by the alienating parent. Frequent negative comments by one parent about the other to or in front of their children can have a huge impact on the child’s relationship with that parent.
This may then escalate to actions such as telling the child that the other parent will harm them, restricting their contact with the child, and punishing the child if they show favour or positive feelings to the other parent.
Signs of emotional abuse in the child
A child who is being subjected to NPA may not be able to explain why they behave very negatively to one parent while believing that the other parent is close to perfect and the only one who really cares about them. They may not believe that they are doing anything wrong when they mistreat the alienated parent or feel guilty for what is clearly hostile behaviour towards them. The child may even claim that memories of good times with the alienated parent are untrue or never took place.
Parent-child relationship dynamics
NPA can have a profound and damaging impact on relationships between the child and both parents. The impacts on the relationship with the alienated parent are self-evident – the negativity and hostility introduced by the alienating parent can do damage that may be very hard to repair or overcome in the future.
But the relationship between the child and the alienating parent may also become unhealthy when NPA takes place. The child may believe that the alienating parent is the only person that really cares about them and becomes extremely dependent on them beyond the normal dependency between a child and a parent. NPA may lead to the child effectively being used to support the alienating parent rather than being supported by them.
Solutions for narcissist parental alienation
Identifying the problem
NPA can be identified by the symptoms listed above, or other behaviours and impacts that follow a similar pattern. If a child begins to show very negative emotions towards one of their parents with no clear, factual cause, and the other parent seems to be encouraging this, it is possible that NPA is taking place, and you should seek support.
Seeking help from a mental health professional
NPA can be very hard for the alienated parent to deal with on their own. Their relationship with the other parent is almost certainly highly strained or worse, and they want to avoid putting further pressure on their child or children who are already being damaged. Getting support from a counsellor or therapist can help you learn how to talk about the issues with your children and may also lead to family therapy to address the problem with the other parent.
To find a counsellor, you can seek a recommendation from your doctor or use a directory from a professional body.
Building a support system
As well as seeking professional help, an alienated parent needs to build a support network of friends and family who know what is happening. Support groups of other parents who have experienced narcissistic parent alienation may also be helpful, either in person or online. Sometimes just having the validation from someone else that you are not imagining things or that this is not normal can be hugely helpful for your mental health.
Coping strategies for the child
The best way to help your child when NPA is taking place is to offer them a loving and safe space, even though they may be told otherwise. Try to empathise with them and support them in exploring and expressing their feelings, but do not be drawn into negative statements or behaviours towards the alienating parent. The best way to combat hate and lies really is with love and truth.
Co-parenting strategies for the non-narcissistic parent
Co-parenting successfully with an alienating parent is likely to be impossible. It is vital that you set boundaries, document everything said and done, and seek legal advice as well as counselling support. NPA is a form of abuse and should not be tolerated or just endured. It is bad for you and your children.
Narcissistic parental alienation is a horrific form of abuse because it turns vulnerable children who you love dearly against you. This can have long-lasting effects on both you and them, and it is important to take action to stop it as soon as you become aware that it is happening. While this can be extremely hard, and the nature of NPA is that you are being encouraged to doubt yourself, seeking intervention is the right thing to do and there is a great deal of support available.