Many children—whether grown adults or younger— have a healthy relationship with their mother, but some people have a parent who makes them feel inadequate, worthless, or like they did something horrible. If your relationship with your mother sounds like that, you may have a toxic parent.
The term “toxic” indicates poisonous or dangerous. When combined with the word “parent,” it means that your mom’s or dad’s words or behaviors are unhealthy for your emotional wellbeing. When you realize you have toxic people in your life, you may wonder how to manage the relationships. You may even ask, “Is it okay to stop talking to my toxic mother?” The answer, in short, is yes. But with a parent-child relationship, there can be complexities, attachments, and history that make cutting a parent out of your life challenging. Learning more about toxic relationships and how to cope with them can help you navigate challenges.
If you are experiencing distress or difficulties in any relationship or a loved one has any mental health concerns, please know that help is available. For compassionate, effective support and therapy, you can conveniently connect with licensed mental health professionals at BetterHelp.
There is not a single definition for what a toxic person is. A toxic person tears you down and causes you pain and doubt. There are some commonly-accepted characteristics of people who are considered toxic:
What Does A Toxic Mother-Child Relationship Looks Like?
Each relationship is as unique as the people in it. While a toxic mother does not have a single definition or official diagnosis, she likely makes you feel guilty, fearful, or bad about yourself. Her behaviors aren’t isolated incidents but form a pattern that may have these traits:
When (And How) To Stop Having Contact with A Toxic Parent
When communication and setting boundaries don’t work, it may be time to take a break from interacting with a toxic parent. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll cut ties forever, and you don’t need to make that decision right away. Reconciliation may be possible, or you may be able to find closure and healing in other ways. While disengaging from a parent-child relationship can be emotional, challenging, and sad, protecting your mental health and wellbeing is not selfish or mean; it’s a necessity. If a toxic parent is significantly affecting your mental health or negatively impacting your healthy relationships (such as those with a spouse, partner, or children), no longer having contact with them may become the right thing to do.
Handling family gatherings: If you have made the difficult decision to stop talking to a toxic parent, you don’t necessarily need to avoid family gatherings or withdraw from positive relationships with other relatives. If family gatherings are important to you, you can still attend and even enjoy them. You might need to prepare yourself for some awkwardness and discomfort—and you might need an escape plan if a toxic parent’s behavior becomes intolerable—but you don’t need to cut yourself off from things you want to do. However, if you don’t want to go, permit yourself not to and avoid feeling guilty. You can give a polite no. Expressing yourself firmly and simply can leave no room for misinterpretation. On the other hand, saying “maybe” or giving lengthy explanations leaves the door open for more interactions and possibly more negative exchanges.
Avoiding interactions and coping with unexpected encounters: A toxic parent may be very persistent once you’ve withdrawn from the relationship. Making yourself unavailable might be necessary. Screening calls and texts can be wise. If communication is necessary, a short email may be the least aggressive way to get in touch. If the toxic parent lives near you and unexpectedly shows up, you can try to keep interactions to a minimum and avoid getting drawn in by saying that you aren’t available or need to leave.
Control What You Can Control:
When dealing with a toxic relationship, it’s important to stay calm and firm during interactions and remember that you are not at fault, nor are you responsible for others’ actions or feelings. You can’t control anyone else, just yourself. You deserve to be treated with respect.
The parent-child bond can be one of the strongest in life. Even if a parent is toxic, separating from them may lead to a sense of loss or sadness because things were not as you wished they would be. Be sure to take care of yourself emotionally. A licensed mental health professional can be an excellent resource to help you heal and navigate relationship challenges. Please reach out for help—compassionate and effective therapy is available through ReGain. A licensed therapist can help you create healthy boundaries and take care of yourself.
“Dr. Bown has made a significant impact in our lives, and She is always giving honest advice, and we feel she genuinely cares about our family. She is a valued treasure that we are grateful for in our lives :).”
“Yumi is amazing and a perfect fit for us. We just have one video session to help our family so much in so many ways. His responses are on point, and we value them greatly. I can’t thank her enough for all she has continued to do to strengthen our family. I would recommend her to the world. That’s how amazing she is.”