How To Deal With A Narcissistic Mother At Christmas
*We may earn a commission for purchases made using our links. Please see our disclosure to learn more.
One of the most stressful times for many narcissists and their families is Christmas time. It’s a time when our culture tells us that we are supposed to be thinking about other people and their needs; something the narcissist is not capable of doing. It’s a particularly difficult time for the children of narcissistic parents who often get the message that their needs are unimportant all the time.
When you’re dealing with a narcissistic mother during the Christmas holidays, it can help to have some strategies for how best to deal with her narcissistic abuse. Perhaps the single most important thing you can do is to take care of yourself, but there are other things that can help too.
Read on to learn vital information about how you can best care for yourself and any other family members as you cope with your mother’s narcissistic abuse over the Christmas holiday. You want your holidays to be happy for everyone, and these tips will help you make that a reality for everyone in your family.
How Will Your Narcissistic Mother Act During the Holidays?
As children of narcissists know, family holidays are not the joyful, loving times of year that popular media makes them out to be; not with a narcissistic mother, they’re not. If your mother is a narcissist, you know you’re going to battle at Christmas.
You have to prepare yourself for living up to your narcissistic mother’s impossible expectations, and no matter how you try to show her how much you love her, it will never be enough. You will pale in comparison to other family members, and she will spare no effort to let you know that.
It will be a competition between you and your siblings, though there is no prize, and everyone will end up miserable when it’s all over. It’s quite simply exhausting to try to live up to her expectations while she is ignoring you, insulting you, glaring at you, or yelling at you.
If she’s not doing those things, as is common when other people are around, it’s even more strange because you know it’s a facade that will never last. You know that the moment she gets you alone, you’ll get an earful and maybe worse.
You might dream of missing the holiday altogether, but there’s no hope for that because you are obligated to attend. You are left looking forward to the day when you’re an adult and can make those kinds of decisions for yourself. Unfortunately, by that time, you have usually been so poisoned by her narcissistic abuse that you don’t feel confident in making your own decisions.
Childhood Experiences of Christmas with a Narcissistic Mother
Because narcissistic mothers see their children as mere extensions of themselves, they don’t see them as children. Many narcissistic mothers extol the virtues of the holiday season for children, but they fail to extend that to their own children because they see them as peers.
As businesswoman Tess Lawson remembers, “I can not recall even one holiday season during my childhood that did not involve a major ordeal of screaming, arguing, physical abuse, etc. Merry Christmas everyone!” That’s because her mother expected her to be mature during the holiday season, and as a result, she was expected to support her younger siblings and forgo any enjoyment herself.
Covert narcissistic mothers might be too busy attending to the needs of ‘less fortunate’ children to pay attention to their own children during Christmas. These mothers want the world to see them as great mothers despite the fact that they rarely tend to the needs of their own children.
Exhibitionistic or grandiose narcissistic mothers want to be the center of attention all year round, but especially during the holidays. They will rob their own children of any enjoyment by forcing them to focus on them rather than any other aspect of the holiday.
Things don’t get any better with time either. Even as an adult, if you’re still in contact with your narcissistic mother, you’ll find the holidays less than jolly.
Adult Experiences of Christmas with a Narcissistic Mother
For adult children of a narcissistic mother, the Christmas season is no less stressful. If you’re still in contact with this toxic person, you’ll likely dread any holiday season.
Narcissistic mothers of adult children are frequently frightened they will reveal just how bad of a mother she has been. For that reason, they may initiate a fight with their adult child, the result of which will be to ban them from the holiday gatherings.
They will then proceed to tell any extended family members that their child abused them, a classic case of projection and gaslighting. They’ll explain that’s why their child is not attending the party.
If you do manage to avoid that and attend family gatherings, you can expect criticism, manipulation, and lots of gaslighting. Dare to bring up any talk of something your mother did and you’ll hear that you’re too sensitive or she will simply lie and tell a much different tale.
To be fair, it’s got to be a nightmare for her, because the eyes of the extended family are upon her. She’s terrified she’ll be exposed for the horrible mother she really is, and she’ll do anything to prevent that.
What’s a Child of a Narcissistic Mother to Do?
Perhaps the most important realization the child of a narcissistic mother needs is to know that their mother suffers from a mental disorder and it’s not their fault. As the child of a narcissist, you didn’t make them that way, and you don’t deserve the treatment they’re heaping on you.
The next most important realization you can have is that you will not be able to change your narcissistic mother. Ever. Period. You can’t fix her, but you can help yourself, and that’s where your focus needs to be.
The most important thing you can do to protect yourself is to take care of your own mental and physical needs. That means finding a way to break away when it gets too stressful. Take a walk, excuse yourself and go to the restroom, or find a place where you can be alone for even just a few minutes to restore your inner sense of calm.
When interacting with her, be agreeable no matter how difficult or ridiculous the situation becomes. You can’t win a fight with her and you’ll only end up making matters worse.
Don’t let her know what you’re thinking because she will use it against you. She will also try to publicly humiliate you. She does this so that should you expose anything about her that makes her look bad, your credibility will be shot.
Give her as many compliments as you can. That will help her to feel as though you’re on her side and you won’t expose her flaws. It also confuses anyone who is trying to insult you if you return their insult with a compliment. They can’t really strike out at you without making themselves look bad.
Remember that anytime she is attacking you, she wants you to react emotionally, to take the bait as it were. Don’t do it. Instead, try saying something funny or giving her yet another compliment. You can also always say, “You might be right about that.” There’s little she can say in response.
Keep It Short and Leave Early
Finally, keep your responses short and limit the time you spend with her. If you’re reacting to something she said, don’t try to defend yourself. Create the illusion that she has the upper hand and make yourself an uninteresting target by just saying, “Well, maybe you’re right.”
Don’t stay at the family gathering for too long. If you’re an adult, make an excuse so you can tell people ahead of time why you have to leave early. If you’re a child, try going to your room to spend some time by yourself. This is time you can use to recharge your batteries and practice some self-care like doing something you like to do.
There are several ways you can improve your Christmas experience with your narcissistic mother if you can’t go no-contact. You can decide simply not to go to the festivities, but as therapist Kellen Von Houser notes, she might tell a different story on shared social media by posting something like, “My son is turning his back on his family on the most important day of the year. My heart is broken! It’s the ONLY time I get to see him. What have I done so wrong?!”
What you can do, however, is decide not to emotionally engage in her mind games. You can also choose to limit the time you spend with her at this time of year. Arrive prepared with an excuse to leave early, or if you’re a minor and can’t leave, excuse yourself to your own room where you can have some private time. If she won’t give you a happy holiday, you can give it to yourself!
When you’re trying to deal with narcissistic abuse during the holidays or any time of the year, a free copy of my “Narcissistic Rejection Guide” can help. It will help you learn to say no and push back against their abusive tactics. Just click on the link and I’ll send it directly to your inbox for free!
If you want more tips for dealing with narcissists, setting boundaries, and managing emotional triggers, make sure you subscribe to my youtube channel