When you found you were going to be parents, you had these visions of spending birthdays and holidays together – creating memories and building family bonds.
Sometimes, though, our dreams of the relationship our parents will have with our children don’t quite turn out the way we wanted them to.
Sometimes our parents, or our partner’s parents, will create issues between ourselves and our partner with narcissistic tendencies. Being grandparents can bring out a side of parents we’ve never seen before, and sometimes we don’t know how to deal with it.
If you and your partner are experiencing grandparents who are narcissistic, or expressing those tendencies there are some tactics you can employ to help you deal with it and make sure you keep your family together.
Don’t Completely Cut Off Contact – Yet
Typically it’s only one grandparent who is doing this, and it won’t be both of them. If you decide to completely cut off contact with both parents because of the actions of one, the other grandparent will suffer.
They may know that their spouse is behaving like this but may not exactly know what to do about it either. Before completely cutting off all contact, try some other tactics for creating boundaries.
It’s Always Going to Be About Them
Narcissistic people can have a hard time handling situations when all the attention isn’t on them. Having a baby means that all the attention will likely be on the baby.
In family situations where their grandchildren are around, they will probably feel pretty left out and like they’re being ignored – even if they aren’t.
When this happens, they can sometimes create unnecessary drama so that the situation will go back to them and they can soak up all the attention again. This can include faking an illness or injury, emotional situations and even creating a fight where there previously weren’t any issues.
In order to deal with this kind of behavior, it’s important to remember that you can limit the amount of time you spend with them. Additionally, you may find it helpful to make sure you always visit them with your spouse so that there is one person to visit with the parents and another can be with the kids – if needed.
This way, the narcissistic parent may not feel so left out or as though they are being ignored.
Set Your Expectations – Early
While it was already mentioned to not completely cut off contact – which might be a natural gut reaction – you can still find ways to minimize the amount of contact your child has with this grandparent.
Treating the relationship with a narcissistic grandparent like a business transaction can seem like a really cold approach to family, but it may be necessary to protect your child from the impact of this situation.
One of the most consistent traits of a narcissist is that they feel entitled to all your time and attention, and if you give them even a little bit more sometimes, they will take everything.
With this in mind, let them know what the boundaries are and what your expectations of them are – early on. Make sure you keep all your communications with them brief and to the point.
You don’t have to explain your decisions to them, and yes/no answers are completely justified. Narcissists will often also try to drag out the conversation so they can exhaust and overwhelm you, and then you’ll be more likely to agree to whatever it is they want.
When speaking to them, keep the conversations short and on topic. If you’re discussing holiday plans or a family celebration, stick to the facts about what is going on and don’t stray to other topics – even if they do.
Keep Your Life Private
You might be thinking that this is your parent, and keeping your life private from them seems unnecessary and mean. When you’re dealing with a narcissist, though, this is a very necessary step.
People who are narcissistic are fantastic at manipulating everyone into doing exactly what it is they want them to do. They may also twist the truth and facts to fit the story they’re trying to create.
With that in mind, they could take any detail you share about your life and use it against you later on or use it to manipulate you into doing whatever it is they want from you.
When talking to them about things going on in your life, keep it to a minimum and make sure what you tell them is about the event you’re going to or factual things that cannot be manipulated.
In the same way, don’t take anything they say too seriously. Narcissists will attempt to twist the truth in their favor, so they always look like the victim or the hero. If they make a comment about you that bothers you, don’t react to it – just move the conversation along.
The best way to minimize the amount of influence any narcissist has over you is to not give them any material to work with.
Minimize Time Spent Together
You don’t want to completely stop attending holidays and family celebrations because there are likely other family members you want to spend time with.
With this in mind, you can still minimize the amount of time you interact with this particular family member.
Do your best to make sure you are not alone with this parent during family events and gatherings – surround yourself with others who can act as a buffer between the two of you.
They may try to invite you out to do something, just the two of you, or get you alone so they can talk to you. By avoiding this and make sure there is always someone else around when you have interactions with them, they are less likely to manipulate you than if you are just one on one.
Don’t allow the narcissist to be alone with your children
They may offer to take the kids for a weekend or an evening so you and your partner can enjoy a night out, but this may not be a great idea.
Children are especially susceptible to narcissism as they cannot believe that their grandparent would harm them in any way. Additionally, as long as your children listen to and obey their grandparent everything will be fine. However, if they start asking questions or disobeying it can become a very different relationship.
Try to Compromise
If your parent is trying to suggest they take your kids for a weekend, and you just don’t feel comfortable about it, try to compromise with them.
If you make alternative suggestions, they may still feel like they are in control of the situation. Perhaps suggest that they could join you and your family when you’re going out for dinner.
If it’s a holiday, you can also ask them to come and perhaps ask them to bring a dish to help with dinner. This will make sure they feel included but are not running the show when you don’t want them to.
The one thing narcissists need is to feel like they’re in control of the situation, so if you flat out tell them no then they might feel as though they are completely being cut out of everything – and that can be problematic.
Instead, by giving them the idea that they’re in control and compromising so they feel like the whole thing is their idea and it will be less likely to cause any issues.
They Might Pick a Favorite
Many narcissists will choose a favorite grandchild where they treat him/her far better than others, which can cause issues with your other children or even your sibling’s children.
Children won’t understand why it’s happening and that it isn’t their fault – so they’ll feel left out or unloved.
If this happens, it’s important to make sure your children know they are all loved and that picking favorites isn’t about them. If they feel like they are being unfairly treated compared to their sibling, listen to their concerns and try to assure them it’s not about them.
When your parent starts showing narcissistic tendencies or behaviors in becoming a grandparent it can be hard on your whole family.
It’s understandable that you wanted your family to enjoy their time together, and spend holidays making new memories. However, when one person is manipulative and creates unnecessary problems it can really disrupt the family dynamics.
This isn’t about you, though, and it’s important to make sure you remember that. Make sure you create boundaries so that you can keep the behavior separate and you don’t give the narcissist any material to work with.
You may not need to cut this grandparent out of your children’s lives, but it could be advisable to remove extra interaction and limit the amount of time spent together.
Additionally, make sure you are talking to you partner about what’s going on and that you two are in agreement about what is going on. If one partner is not on board then it can make parenting very difficult and can create a wedge between the two of you.