Breaking up is hard enough. If your partner has a cluster B personality disorder, like narcissism, it will be even more difficult. If children are caught in the middle, it can be heart-breaking. How do you protect your children?
- Do not put your children in the middle of the battles (if there are any) between you and your husband. He will try to draw them in. He will try to split them off from you. Please take the high ground and try to buffer them from pulled between the two of you. Adult matters and disputes should be between adults and children should be left out of them. Do your best to buffer your children from this, regardless of what he does.
- Refuse to vilify him, no matter what he says about you. He’s their father, and you picked him. Take responsibility and don’t let them be victims in the crossfire.
- Educate them about his methods without commenting on him, especially as they grow older. Teach them about gaslighting, guilting, splitting, stonewalling, etc. so they recognize the manipulations. Try to label the behavior without vilifying the man. When they can recognize the behavior as a manipulation they will be more immune to it. It will help inoculate them against being susceptible to his crazy-making behaviors.
(Note: You say “young children”. Children do not develop the capacity for analytical thinking until they are 10 or 11. And it only starts to kick in then. It takes a few years to fully develop. Be patient until they are old enough to fully grasp what’s going on and have the capability to analyze what he’s doing.)
- Validate their feelings, perceptions and thoughts. One of the things about interacting with a narcissist is their endless mind games and the enormity of their lies which make you question your own thoughts, feelings and perceptions. They will even make you doubt your own five senses. Make sure that your children have a very firm grasp of and confidence in their own thoughts, feelings and perceptions. It is crucial they can trust themselves when up against the mind games of a narcissist. Reassure them that their feelings are justified, their perceptions are accurate and their thoughts are valid. Then…
- Let your children draw their own conclusions.