This is not easy. But it is essential. You cannot let your experience, your knowledge go to waste. And you cannot not respect your child’s relationship with her dad, so you don’t just blurt things out. You don’t say things in anger or to make a point.
This isn’t about what you want her to know. It’s about validating what she is already finding out.
What and how you say it is a tender matter that you must decide carefully, taking into consideration her age, her level of maturity, the level of trust and confidence between you and the place of discussion.
Riding along in a car, listening to the radio and such, if your child say, “Dad doesn’t love me”, your response might be “Why do you say that?” This would most likely be an invitation from her to talk. Not necessarily a time to face her worst fears.
If your child says, “He doesn’t love me”, in an intimate setting within an already active sharing, where she has given permission to delve deeper, your response might be, ““I believe he thinks he does…but no, honey, this isn’t love. How he’s treating you isn’t love. How he’s making you feel isn’t love.”
Depending on her age and emotional maturity and the trust and confidence between you, you might feel it right to add: “In all the ways that makes love truly love, no…he doesn’t (love you). But it’s not you. He isn’t able to love anyone…including himself.”
The second part may not seem like such a big distinction from the first, but it is. The first is a more general statement about the nature of love with the space for your child to draw more personal conclusions when they are ready – like, tell me but don’t tell me – and the second is specific and personal – no, he doesn’t (love you).
Whatever you do, whatever you say, it must be the truth – whether it is of a more general nature or specifically personal. Your child depends on you to do that.
You cannot stop her from crying. But you can empower her. You can give her the tools to survive now and the tools to protect herself from future narcissists.
Her father will give her PLENTY of opportunity to see what a narcissist looks like, smells like, sounds like and acts like. It’s up to you to make sure you take those painful opportunities and turn them into educational ones that will serve her.
From that space, from the knowledge she receives, she will be able to accept what good he does have to offer, take it for what it is and not confuse it as what love is.
You will spare her a future life of hell with the other narcissists, just waiting in the wings to take her father’s place.