How to celebrate Mother’s Day if you have a toxic mom, according to experts

For many people, Mother’s Day is a whirlwind of buying flowers and making loving phone calls. On this holiday, almost everyone participates by showing their love and appreciation to their moms—and expectations run high. So what are you supposed to do on Mother’s Day if you have a toxic mom and can’t or don’t want to reach out?

Of course, every situation is different, but toxic parents are difficult to deal with on the best of days and straight-up impossible on the worst of days. If you have a toxic mom, chances are she’s pushed you away, guilted you, shamed you, blamed you, and engaged in gaslighting and passive-aggressive behaviors—or maybe worse.

The relationship can be stressful, and you might even get to the point where you no longer want to have contact with her. Whatever the situation may be, sending a card or flowers can feel uncomfortable, and making a phone call or meeting up in person runs the risk of putting yourself in a bad emotional spot.

It’ll be up to you to decide the best course of action to take based on how you feel about your mom and how toxic she is. With that in mind, here are a few tips to get you through Mother’s Day, according to experts.

1Focus on what feels right for you.

Before you send a card out of guilt or brace yourself for a stressful phone call, stop and listen to your gut. Are you acknowledging your mom because you want to or because you feel like you have to?

If the latter is true, there may be a scaled-down way to celebrate Mother’s Day that feels better for you—and that could include not recognizing it at all, Kate Loewenstein, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker, tells HelloGiggles.

“If you’re feeling uncomfortable about reaching out to [your] mom this year,” she says, “there is likely a valid reason.” Maybe you haven’t contacted her in a while and don’t feel comfortable or don’t want to hear her complain. Whatever the reason may be, look out for yourself. And if that means ignoring the day altogether, that’s completely okay.

2 Send a quick text.

If you would like to acknowledge your mom but aren’t quite sure what to do, a quick text will likely be your best bet. Unlike a phone call or a social media post, a text allows you to be more in control of any communication that follows, should you want to avoid having a longer conversation, she says. “Keeping it short and sweet will prevent you from having to offer well-wishes that don’t feel genuine,” Loewenstein adds. Distance is key when it comes to dealing with toxic people, so use it to your advantage and send a simple “Happy Mother’s Day” text and see how it goes.

3Celebrate someone else.

Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be about a biological person who raised you. Instead, you can focus on the other important people in your life. “If you have someone who was like a second mom, celebrate her,” Nikki Winchester, a clinical psychologist and owner of the Cincinnati Center for DBT, says. “If your dad took on more of the role of your mom growing up, celebrate him!”

It can also be another family member, a person who has offered guidance, or even someone you look up to. Whoever stands out, send them a card, give them a call, and let them know what they mean to you.

4Talk to your siblings.

If you’re looking to make a family connection, consider reaching out to siblings or cousins. You may be able to plan a meetup where you celebrate the holiday by yourselves, talk about what you’ve been through, and reconfirm that you’ve got each other’s backs. Or, you can simply eat brunch and not talk about your family’s problems at all.

“When you have others in your camp, you can find some comfort and even humor in the madness,” Dr. Christie Jenkins, a faculty member from Walden University’s MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program, tells HelloGiggles. Chances are they know exactly what you’re going through and will be grateful for the invite.

5Treat yourself.

If all else fails, make the day about you. “Buy yourself flowers, take a bubble bath, give yourself a foot massage, or write yourself a thank-you note for being a strong and supportive presence for yourself,” therapist Kristen Genzano, LPC, NCC, tells HelloGiggles.

If you grew up with a toxic mom, you’ve probably had to be a bit of a mother figure for yourself anyway, Genzano says, so “recognize this work you’re doing and honor it by being loving and generous with yourself.”

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