I can’t believe I am even contemplating writing an article with the title Children of Sociopaths.
To be sure, I never would have had children with a known sociopath…….. who would? If I had known then what I know now (famous last words?) I would have gotten as far away as possible, as quickly as I could. That being said, I love my kids with all my heart and can’t imagine my life without them, sociopath father or not.
When I first realized that the father of my children was truly a sociopath I was scared to death of what that would mean for them. I realized I was dealing with a sociopath when my kids were very little so most of their lives so far have been about me trying to protect them and shield them from the very worst parts of their father. It’s not that he is physically violent towards them (see definition, as sociopaths are not typically what you see in movies). It’s more the subtle things; the manipulation, the lies, the lack of safety when they are with him that have prompted me to be acutely aware of what is happening when they are around him.
One very blatant example of how little my children are valued by their sociopath father is the way he has used their names and social security numbers for his own financial gain. My kids each have outstanding bills in their names (5 years old!). This “father” also acquired a copy of his oldest daughter’s birth certificate (for unknown reasons) by writing a fraudulent check. When his daughter later tried to get a copy of her birth certificate for college or work purposes she was told that she could not get a copy unless the check charges were taken care of. She had to pay for her father’s fraudulence before she could get a copy of her own birth certificate. She had no recourse because he was her “father” and had a “right” to the information/copy.
Children of sociopaths can be easily confused. Children love their parents unconditionally, especially small children. Sadly, positive attention from the sociopath parent is typically only for the parent’s gain and not genuine so children don’t have the opportunity to experience true love and connection with this parent. This becomes more and more difficult the older children get because it can affect their self esteem (am I worthy?), their sense of reality (but he says he loves me), and their perception of what a healthy person and healthy relationships look like.
At best, a sociopath parent will be attentive and demonstrate loving gestures when they are being observed or are in “competition” with the other parent. At worst, the sociopath parent is abusive and/or extremely indifferent. No matter what the extreme, the lying and manipulation will probably be the hardest and most confusing. Kids are so trusting and literal. In our home there was a lot of this type of situation: Dad would tell child to go in and get a coat on. Child would tell dad she is hot and doesn’t need a coat. Dad would insist and in subtle ways, almost unnoticeable ways, lead her to become hysterical. I would try to find out what was going on after hearing the chaos. Dad would then say something like “she is upset because she is tired and wouldn’t get her coat on even though she is cold”. Daughter, who by this time is so upset, says “but I told him I’m not cold (no one else has a coat on, it’s quite warm out really) and he won’t listen”.
In the end, the situation ends up that daughter no longer knows whether she was right about her own body/feelings/decision, etc. Daughter can no longer articulate herself clearly because of being upset. Dad is confirming to me and to daughter “see, she is tired and thinks she can get her own way and you just let her get away with being spoiled”. This is a random example with random words, but the type of scenario and the end results are typical. Dad has manipulated an entire situation where he can affirm that I am crazy and child is ridiculous. To watch your child go through this over and over again, knowing in your heart what is happening is part of the crazy-making and it is devastating.
The sociopath has no conscience so does not care about the long term affects he has on the child (his own or others). Children are simply possessions to serve a purpose. Consider yourself lucky if the sociopath parent makes no effort to spend time with his children. In my case, the sociopath has fought in court to no end for the sheer reason of trying to win or to try to make it as difficult as possible for me, financially and emotionally. It’s not that he wants or cares about the kids in any real parental sense.
The scariest thing of all is that there tends to be a relationship or genetic factor to becoming a sociopath. Statistically speaking, there is a higher chance of becoming a sociopath if you have a parent that is one. How do you prevent that? Well, you work extra hard at becoming the stable figure that your children need. You limit, as much as you possibly can, the contact between sociopath parent and child. You demonstrate love, nurturing, and healthy relations as consistently as possible. You be as honest as you can with your children to demonstrate the benefits of truth. Try not to destroy the image of the other parent for the sake of your children; the truth about the other parent will usually reveal itself to the children in time. Be sure to be there full force when your children do start to discover the truth about the sociopath, for they are sure to be confused and hurt.
It’s not easy to protect your children, especially when you are forced to go through family courts and the sociopath parent is awarded visitation. In my case it has taken an incredible amount of time, money, and documentation to slowly reveal what my children’s father truly is. Most people don’t have the luxury of time or money; it has certainly taken a toll on our family. I’m sure if I had the kind of money that most attorneys require, my case would have gone differently and would have been done by now. Don’t give up.