3 questions to ask yourself if you raised kids in a dysfunctional home.

Nobody’s perfect, and that goes for parents too.  There’s no such thing as a perfect parent. There’s something called a “good enough” parent though, which means that you are going to make mistakes raising your kids, no matter how much talent you have for the task or how well adjusted you are.  Children don’t come with instruction manuals, and some of the mistakes you make might even be pretty bad ones.    But overall, you’re “good enough” if your kids know you love them no matter what mistakes you made, and they turn out to be functioning, reasonably happy adults.

But for survivors of narcissistic abuse, things are a little more dire.   Because many of us suffer from mental disorders caused by abuse–C-PTSD, BPD, OCD, anxiety, depression, and a host of other mental maladies–we probably entered parenthood with less of a sense of ourselves and our place in the world than the “normals” who had “good enough” parents.  Our narcissistic parents were not “good enough” and we were emotionally handicapped because of that.  Even if we aren’t narcissists ourselves, our children still suffered the fallout of our own abuse.    This could have manifested in many ways:

— we may have “parentified” our children (looked up to them as parental figures and shared things with them that should not be shared with children)

— we may have neglected them more than we should have, or put our own needs first

— we may have been unfaithful to our spouses or had affairs

— we may have overindulged in alcohol or drugs to ease our pain

— we may have had health problems due to trauma that interfered with our ability to be there for our children

— we may even have assigned the “scapegoat” or “golden child” role to our kids, albeit with less intensity than narcissist parents would have

— we may have been hospitalized for mental illness, which took time away from us being able to be there for our kids

— we may have been emotionally unstable, clinically depressed, always angry or quick to lose patience

— we may have been too permissive with our kids, in a misguided attempt to make up for our own miserable childhood, if our parents were very strict and controlling.

— we may have slept our days away out of depression, ignoring the needs of our kids

—  there may have been constant arguing and fighting in the home

— we may have stayed with an abuser, knowing the danger to the children

— we may have failed to protect our kids from an abusive spouse

I wasn’t guilty of everything on this list, but I was guilty of some of them.   I have a lot of guilt and regret over that, of course.   I beat myself up a lot over what I should have done differently.   And of course, I should have, but I was also at the time in a highly codependent marriage to an emotionally abusive malignant narcissist who gaslighted me and projected every bad thing he could onto me every chance he got. He was slowly but effectively driving me insane, and he tried to turn our kids against me too (in the end, he did not succeed).


Somehow, my kids turned out alright.  Sure, they have problems.  But so does everyone.     Neither has NPD that I can tell.   I worry about them constantly though, frequently “seeing” pathology in them that in reality doesn’t exist.  I think it’s my guilt over my less than ideal parenting that makes me do this.  Because I was unintentionally under-protective of my kids when they were very young, sometimes I think I’m trying to “make up” for that now, when they are young adults and over-protectiveness is no longer appropriate or even healthy.

If you know you were a less than ideal parent due to our own trauma, ask yourself the following three questions:

  1. Do you have a good relationship with your children today?
  2. Are they functioning adequately in the world for their age group and mental ability?
  3. Do they have the capacity for empathy, friendship and love?

If the answers to these questions is “Yes,” then in spite of how bad a parent you think you were, you were “good enough” under the circumstances of simply not having the emotional tools that would have made your job as a parent easier.

If you know your parenting left a lot to be desired, encourage your adult child to talk to you honestly about what it felt like to be raised by you.  Listen to what they tell you, without interrupting, judging, or criticizing, even if what they tell you isn’t what you want to hear.  Chances are, even if your relationship with them has been damaged, allowing them to open up to you this way without fear of judgment is a step toward healing your relationship and building a healthier, more loving one.

3 thoughts on “3 questions to ask yourself if you raised kids in a dysfunctional home.

  1. no no and no but im the child of..
    hurts there is no real relationship, I feel like a ghost like shell
    embarrassing that for my age group.. I am going on 17-25.(am 42).i haven’t changed at all and I have to face peers … I cant even begin to tell you how that makes me hide.. even quit jobs… and am therefore at risk for poverty. mental ability,well after ptsd im lucky I can even type right now. I feel my iq lowered when I was gifted!
    I have capacity for empathy friendship and love but when I first read that sentence my heart sank. as it is so crippled. not the capacity I guess but the ability…and the willingness..is NOT There.
    I don’t know how to fix it
    my parents wont because they pretend to be clueless or are clueless.
    I am not the kind of person who found forgiveness to be healing
    I needed also to have help too
    like actual physical help/financial.. actions… not just lets all sing kumbaya and pretend it didnt happen…(that’s still for them to feel better,almost as if you are their parent,when you needed one) they can even accept my forgiveness and still know about it if I was suffering financially etc
    so its not sincere.
    its them saying “oh whew she is ok we can again put her out of our minds”
    its extremely painful
    people can cripple others and then never come back to that spot
    it reminds me of the biblical scapegoat..he was to be crippled! it says pushed off the side of a cliff till its legs broke..
    so that goat not only had “all the sins of Israel” placed on it.. it also wouldn’t even be able to get up and walk again….
    for them… their “red string turned white”
    I don’t think they know it comes back for them
    the scapegoat rises….
    they joy and sing and feel glad it turns white..right when they do this heinous act
    so that’s how I described my feeling above…
    I have understood now and maybe we can apply this to people in our lives.. the scapegoat thing we talk of so much ..has a THREE POINT system… they get their “relief” not directly from YOU..since you are clearly crying and screaming and in pain and protesting.(what they consider “acting bratty” and not accepting your assigned position). a third party somehow makes them say “whew she is ok even though we did all this” their red string turned white,they feel ok…. its a pyramid or a trinity.. with one cup pouring into the other… a default attachment system
    usually its religion,country..laws and rules.. but its a set up so that you CANT say “no” for YOU will be on the street with no help… they win when doing wrong.
    if it was only abuser and scapegoat the “cycles” will go too fast back and forth
    there is a third such as biblical explanation
    (even in bible scapegoat story there are TWO “identical” goats..with different fates but each has ‘all sins placed on it” both are killed but differently
    one sent away..cruelly shoved off a cliff
    one “INSIDE the “holiest” place
    its almost as if people who scapegoat use and make FUN of the “holy of holies” (why would sins be there anyway) however you look at it.. its a system.
    it buys them time
    it was when judgement was to come upon them and this was how they thwarted it
    but there had to be 3 parts.
    for one you will continue to be scapegoated,i just realized.. if besides yourself you feel there really IS ANOTHER HOLY being worth loving and saving….its a diversion… a façade they use that too!
    that one they USE A LOT in this world
    using your goodness with “oh these children… these people.that person you love them! help them!
    sounds cynical but they will use anything…..
    the twin goats most definitely had to have a relationship.. a tag teaming one…
    when the goat is pushed off the cliff he feels holy,he feels that was wrong
    the twin one inside the holy of holies receives holiness…(maintains his innocence)
    how Israel is saved from this?
    people put their sins on Christ
    he comes to save his bride
    she also is being chased all throughout scripture and people put sins on her and she is holding out for a hero :him
    they are both being used for their love for each other….the bride and bridegroom/the “wedding” a promise of unification of two holy beings who love each other
    humans seem to hold that show up..where is this wedding.
    that would mean THEY ,the people are GOOD
    (verses say wedding happens when the guests are right!)
    it says to joy with the bride and bridegroom
    not sit there leering at them in jealousy and prevent the wedding
    our families when they did this to us PREVENTED our lives from FUNCTIONING . to get a job, to get married.. all those normal things..are so very hard.
    its why im so honest now. my family gives me quiet shocked looks,that they try to hide I mean…. truth is for the first time I could see they might be scared.(but theyre the kind where “scared” means they will fight and act as bad as ever,if I were to ever speak up. im still now allowed to do that!)
    its new
    they actually forced me to regenerate in my selfsame body/give birth to my own self without a family! I couldn’t with them and I had nowhere to go and it was just time…
    so now I am what I am
    a daughter of I don’t know what…but I am a daughter at least. I feel I earned this title.


  2. My covert narcissist mom was for sure raised in a dysfunctional family. I don’t know about the generations before hers but I do know that both Sis and I think our family was somewhat dysfunctional. She made a conscious decision not to have children because she knew she couldn’t/wouldn’t be a very good mother.
    I think everyone in our family who has some background in psychology and psychoanalysis would agree that Sis is BPD. I don’t know if she could identify trauma that caused it and I sure don’t know what it might have been. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t want to do the work to get past it, based on only my observations and the little that she will share with me.
    I know at times that I have exhibited some of the parenting behavior you’ve listed. I also know that I can answer yes to all three of your questions regarding mental, physical and financial states of my adult children. Not sure if I’d ever want to have the conversation you’ve suggested with them and don’t intend to broach it on assumption that, after these generations, it’s not necessary. Fingers crossed with that conclusion, of course.

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