The lost child of a narcissistic parent

The lost child really is quite insightful to the emotionally dangerous family dynamics in a narcissistic family setting – and they pick up on the dysfunction at a very young age. Unlike the golden child and the scapegoat – the lost child of a narcissist quickly comes to the conclusion that this family is terribly dysfunctional. This child realises very early on in the picture that absolutely no amount of reasoning, or debate with their care – givers will help them, or their siblings.

After enduring some very harsh punishments for having a voice; or public shaming (in front of friends or family) for needing support, the lost child will realise that asking for their needs to be met simply doesn’t pay. Normal requests validated in functional families are invalidated in the lost child’s family, and always end in severe punishment.

This child immediately realises that they can not fix this family situation; and must not try to divert the attention away from the narcissistic parent, just in case all hell breaks loose. Becoming involved in the family conflict, messing with the narcissist, and supporting other family members means that this child could be dragged out to sea; to only become caught in the rift.

To be noticed in this dysfunctional family does more harm than good. To be invisible means to be seperate from the pain, suffering, and abuse spewed out all over the other siblings.

‘So, into their safe place, the lost child goes.’

The plan

Once the lost child comes to a conclusion about the family dynamics, they initiate a very well thought out plan; most likely developed subconsciously. They decide to go grey rock, and make limited demands from their family, in the hope of not being a burden, and drawing attention to themselves.

What are the consequences of hiding away?

As a result, the lost child is often excluded, forgotten about to a degree, and not involved in family matters. Overall, these consequences do keep the child safe. However, the child may feel terribly lonely, rejected and isolated.

Its a catch twenty two. The lost child gets what they want and need; but they also become rejected, and left feeling terribly unloved because they have no real close relationships with anybody in the family unit. These children often feel happier when with pets, or a favourite toy that can take them into an imaginative world of their own making.

How does a lost child stay out of the limelight?

The lost child is the child without a voice. They don’t make waves, and pretend to not have a problem with anyone in their family – or the dysfunction in the family. They spend an incredible amount of time out of sight, and away from the drama.

Lost children spend their time:

  • in their room making their own fun
  • conjuring up amazing fantasies
  • daydreaming
  • studying and doing homework
  • on their screens
  • outside playing by themselves with imaginary friends
  • at the shops on their own, wandering the main- street

Out of sight, out of mind

Lost children are labelled by the dysfunctional family as the shy child, are often encouraged to participate more in classroom activities; and most often appear disengaged, or disconnected from others.

Which direction does the child take?

1. I must not bother anybody:

As an adult, the lost child may become too independent, knowing that asking for support will cause absolute chaos, and a rift with the narcissistic parent – who, of course, must have all the attention.

2. Social anxiety, and a lack of close relationships:

Lost children have been isolating themselves since child – hood as a safety mechanism. However, the chronic isolation may cause them to feel socially incapable later in adult life, and to experience severe social anxiety around people. If people become interested in the lost adult – child, the adult may panic, and go back inside of themselves.

Lost children run the risk of becoming extreme introverts.

Healthy relationships and lost children

These children never learned to trust people, because trusting people in childhood meant they could become physically, and emotionally harmed.

Lost children are often too scared to forge relationships with healthy people, through fear that other people will reject them like their parents did. They’ve been hurt too much. The idea of becoming close to other people, and getting hurt again makes them feel sick, and terribly anxious. They usually steer clear of close interpersonal relationships.

However, it is not unusual for lost children to have one ultra close friend.

The issue with isolation

Too much isolation isn’t good for one’s confidence or self-esteem. It can also cause chronic loneliness, agoraphobia type symptoms, paranoia, suicidal thoughts, and feelings of intense rejection.




  1. L | 31st Mar 18

    Mind you, it’s not always parents that can cause kids to become a “lost child”. So can abusive teachers or other secondary caretakers – in those cases, the kid may feel as if their parents are simply not representative of what the world is, and no matter how loving and supportive the parents/family are, the kid will not trust that anyone else in the world will accept them that way. So they write off what their parents do, particularly if the parents say or do something that inadvertently supports the worldview the other caretakers are pushing, which is shockingly easy to do – parents can even say something jokingly or affectionately and not realize their kid took it deadly seriously. An example from my life was my parents referring to the fact that other parents didn’t do what they did, which they meant affectionately but they had no idea that I would get the message from that particular saying that I deserved the abuse I got from the teachers in my private special ed schools for being autistic and not 100% obedient – heck, they never knew I was abused because I didn’t tell them, believing they would side with the teachers.
    The kid will see sayings like the above example (assuming sayings like those are used) as evidence that their parents are only doting on them because they are spoiling them, and that the “real, objective” view of them is that they are not worthy of love or care. So while this type of “lost child” may cling to their parents (assuming the parents are loving and non-abusive) they will be that way in every other sense of the word, because they know from an early age that “the world” sees them as worthless. With the same social consequences.

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