Many people think parenting ends at 18 years, but that’s far from the truth. Parenting is a lifelong bond that ebbs and flows like any other relationship. However, there’s no doubt the relationship will sometimes feel one-sided, especially when kids reach adulthood and go out in the world to find their ways. During this time, many parents face a similar issue; their son only contacts them when he wants something.
What should you do in such a case? Although this is somehow heartbreaking, it’s not the end of the journey. And there could be various reasons why that is happening. Stay put as we go through the different reasons that can make your son only contacts you when he wants something.
Reasons Why Your Son Only Contacts You When He Wants Something
Here are possible reasons for making your son not contact except when he wants something:
Do you and your son share expectations? Parents and children may calculate communication frequency and closeness differently. Your adult son may count emails and texting as communication, while you prefer speaking by phone.
He may also feel satisfied checking in weekly while you want to speak daily. Phone call length may also be a point of disagreement. Your son may be happy to make shorter check-ins while you like hour-long catch-up calls.
In such a case, you need to speak about your expectations. Have a conversation with your son about what it means to you to stay close. Find a neutral time and non-judgementally work with him to ensure you’re both on the same page. Tell him what you need instead of what he can do or doesn’t.
You’re Not Reaching Out
Some parents think their sons are responsible for maintaining their relationship with them as repayment for raising them. And regardless of whether this thinking is justified, it can sabotage what may have been a fruitful and mutual relationship.
So, nurture your relationship with your son as you would a friend – expecting that each of you will put in the effort to stay in touch, spend time together, and contact.
You Don’t Respect His Boundaries
Do you respect your son’s boundaries? Some children complain that talking to their parents frequently turns the conversations into topics they want off limits, like religion, dating status, finances, weight, or politics.
Everyone has boundaries, and it’s your son’s responsibility to speak his in a loving, respectful, and calm way. It’s not your job to read your son’s mind and know what he will or won’t be comfortable discussing.
Once the boundaries are established and communicated, you need to respect them. Violating them and asking your son to discuss off-limit topics can lead him to pull away, feeling resentful and frustrated. Your son may even start avoiding home phone calls.
So, anytime you notice the conversation tone becomes sharp around particular topics, a boundary violation may have occurred. Here, you need to work with your son to hear each other and establish what topics of conversation feel comfortable for everyone.
You Have Nothing Common With Your Son
Unfortunately, family relationships don’t guarantee closeness between generations. Your son has interests, beliefs, values, relationships, careers, and friends that may or may not look like yours. The resulting distance may be painful for you and him.
Here, you need to seek common ground. Do you and your son love to cook, play baseball, or read similar books? Determine the subjects that draw you together, and work things from there. Remember, the distance may be a function of a life stage, not a permanent fixture of the relationship.
You’re Offering Unwanted Advice
When work becomes stressful, dates go poorly, and a longtime friendship hits a rough patch, your son may want to talk to you about it. He may be doing so seeking out support and a listening ear, not motherly or fatherly advice. He may need his pain seen, acknowledged, and even vent, knowing he’s understood and isn’t crazy about his feelings.
If you realize anytime you give advice, it’s met with frustrations, irritation, or “but…”, your son may be looking for your support, not solutions. When your son’s calls are repeatedly met with unwanted advice, he may pull back.
To break this pattern, your son can start by saying, ”I’m feeling frustrated, but I’m not looking for advice. Would you mind listening to me and reassuring me?” If you want to be proactive, you can tell him, “Are you seeking support and a listening ear, or do you need advice?”
Your Relationship With Him Is Strained
Adult children may not regularly call if there’s unresolved childhood hurt. It may be easy to downplay the magnitude of childhood pain. To parents, these old issues may be minor or irrelevant. If your son doesn’t call you as often as you’d like or your relationship lacks the closeness you desire, there may be some old wounds that need tending to.
Sometimes, the hardest part when addressing such wounds is that parents and children recall childhood events through varying lenses. While you may remember your arguments with your partner and how they affected your marriage, your son may carry the scars of tiptoeing nervously around the house, trying to keep the peace.
Therefore, if there are old wounds, be open to discussing them. Listen to your son intending to understand his lived experience, not responding or explaining. His memory will differ from yours, but you both experienced that childhood in legitimate ways.
Parents do a lot for their kids, and making room for this process can be difficult. But to improve your relationship with your son, you need to create space for his experiences and reality and acknowledge his point of view.
There may be various reasons your son only contacts you when he wants something. And the best way to deal with such a situation is to establish why that’s so.
Your son may have valid reasons for avoiding you unless it’s necessary. His childhood trauma may be taking the better part of him, affecting your relationship with him. You may also have different expectations from him, don’t respect his boundaries, or always offer unwanted advice.
Once you’ve established the cause, find solutions, and if things are not getting better, involve a family therapist to help you two work things out. Remember to have an open mind, stay positive and be patient.