Browse Quick Guides by Subject

Coping with a Narcissistic Parent or Sibling

Coping with a Narcissistic Parent or Sibling

Share this with your friends

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Nearly everyone has someone in their personal life who could be described as “stuck on themselves”—and for some of us, that person may be our parent or sibling. Coping with this kind of personality can be challenging, but when you know how, it will make life easier for all involved—especially you! Here’s how you do it.

The Narcissistic Parent

Separating and individuating from our parents is part of the natural, healthy process of growing up. But try telling that to a narcissistic parent. They think of a child as either someone to serve their needs, a “mini-me” who will grow into an exact replica of them—or both.

Most grown children of narcissists manage to achieve some degree of separation from their parents, or so it would appear. They move out of the house, pursue careers, get married, and start families of their own. But if you are the adult child of narcissistic parents, you already know that they still do not truly treat you as a fully independent adult. Narcissistic parents are renowned for a number of difficult behaviors:

Separating from the narcissistic parent is a lifelong task. The only alternative is to estrange yourself from them completely, but most people prefer a less drastic route. After all, they’re your parents. Still, unless you want your life to be your parent’s life, you will have to take steps to preserve your identity and your integrity:

Finally, shield your own kids. It will probably come as no great shock that narcissistic parents are also narcissistic grandparents. No, you don’t have to keep your kids and your parents apart. Just keep an eye on them when they’re together. Try not to let your mother or father send your kids the wrong messages.

The Self-Absorbed Sibling

In families where there are two or more children, one of the children is often selected by the parents to be the merged one, the one on whom high expectations are placed. Thus, you may have a sibling who is locked in a narcissistic dance with your parents while you are not. In a way that’s good news for you, as you have been spared many difficulties.

But having a sibling who has borne the brunt of your parents’ narcissism can be a challenge, too. She might be highly egotistical. He might intrude on your life in the ways that your parents intruded on his. If your sibling is self-centered, has boundary problems, and other traits we’ve discussed, you must—as you would with a narcissistic parent—try not to act out any script they try to force on you. Set limits on your involvement with them, don’t share too much information, and live your life according to your standards.

One thing you cannot do, however, is imagine that you can change the relationship between your sibling and your parents. You know by now that the golden rule of coping with difficult people is that you cannot change anyone else. Now add to that: you cannot change the relationship that exists between other people. Your sibling and your parent will have to work out their issue their way—or not. The best you can do is manage the way you respond to them all. For more information on narcissistic personalities, check out our Quick Guide Coping with a Narcissistic Partner or Spouse. Good luck!

From The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Coping with Difficult People by Arlene Matthews Uhl