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Young Child with Narcissistic Father and Stepmother

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I believe my child’s father and his wife are narcissistic. They have one child together. His wife has two teenage children from a previous relationship. Recently, my child was mistreated by one of the wife’s children. Since my child isn’t there often, my child tends to be the target of their wrath emotionally and mentally when things are not going well for my child’s father and his wife along with her children from a previous relationship. When things are not going well with her children, they will retaliate against my child as well. My child’s father doesn’t do anything to protect or look out for my child. His wife is allowed to be the disciplinarian. Summer visitation is about to start where my child will be with them longer than a weekend. What should I do to help my child deal with their attacks and abuse? (From the USA)

Young Child with Narcissistic Father and Stepmother

Answered by on -


The first thing I want to do is to frame your question properly. This isn’t a psychological question. This isn’t about dealing with narcissists, or an ex-lover, or a blended family debacle. This is a legal issue. Often times, psychology and law overlap. When it does I defer and suggest legal advice.

I highly recommend you begin thinking about this as a legal problem — not a problem with narcissistic parents, psychologically wayward half-siblings, or annoying stepchildren. At that level, you will likely find continued frustration as their system isn’t set up to be open to discussion or change. You don’t want to go in armed with psychological advice and understanding. You’ll want to show up with real power to make a change. This will require a legal opinion and advice.

The reason I am advocating this is that this isn’t about a child being treated poorly. To use your words, what is happening is nothing short of “attacks and abuse.” If you were told by a friend of yours that on a walk in the park they were attacked and abused — how would you react? You’d tell them to go to the police — your answer would be a legal one. If they told you they were annoyed by someone in the park you’d have options to offer about what to do. Your child is being attacked and abused, the response needs to be legal — not philosophical. The moment a situation is labeled as abuse you need to shift from psychological to legal. I would not think these are circumstances you’ll want to deal with from a psychological perspective.

I encourage you to get legal advice from a family and/or divorce lawyer. Explain that when your child goes there to visit he or she is at risk of being abused. I’ve had to make this recommendation to my clients regularly. The result is that it is using the system that is requiring visitation to protect your child is better than trying to manage the situation psychologically. Visitation should not put your child at risk.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Young Child with Narcissistic Father and Stepmother

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2020). Young Child with Narcissistic Father and Stepmother. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 27 Jun 2020 (Originally: 30 Jun 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 27 Jun 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.