My Son Only Contacts Me When He Wants Something

Whoever says that parenting ends at age 18 is undeniably wrong. It’s a lifelong bond that ebbs and flows just like any other relationship. There’s no question that at some point, the relationship is going to feel one-sided, especially as our children hit adulthood and go out into the world to find their way. An issue that many parents face is that their son only contacts them when he wants something.

While this can be somewhat heartbreaking, it isn’t the end of the journey. Let’s take a moment to talk it through with logic, so the emotional aspect doesn’t hit quite so hard. 

A New Season

Once children move out, we don’t get the pleasure of seeing them even in passing while we each go about our days. It’s a hard transition for a mother or father, much more than a son or daughter. They’re fresh-faced and ready to take on the world while we are left watching our legacies walk out the door.

Understandably, we feel a bit bereft and unimportant, especially if they only reach out when they need something. We begin to feel like our worth to them is only as big as our wallets, a feeling that doesn’t sit right at the best of times. 

What we have to remember and hold onto is that they’re learning the ins and outs we mastered so long ago. Simple things, such as laundry and grocery shopping, and more complex situations, such as relationships and careers, take up a lot of time and mind power.

It’s a new season for them, one in which they’ll struggle more than we see. Still, if we take the time to analyze the situation from that point of view and enact the kind of patience we have expected from them in the past, we can bide our time and allow them this newfound freedom without demanding the same bond we had when they were under our roof. 

The Real Issue

Here’s the real crux of this situation. Eighteen years of changing diapers, cooking dinners, checking in daily, and fretting over their well-being culminate in cutting them loose, leaving us adrift.

We found a purpose while raising them, something that filled every waking hour with awareness. We spent years cultivating a bond and expecting it to represent a constant within our lives. That assumption is our fault, not theirs. 

If you stop and think about it, it makes sense that they would turn to us when a problem or need arises and not at other times, at least during the beginning of their journey. They share the tribulations with their friends and partners while turning to us for the trials because we have years of experience beyond them, and they know we can find a solution where they can’t.

We are also a safe space to ask for the help they need. This is the support we give them when they leave. We say, “call me if you need anything,” and they take that at face value because they know they can trust us to be there as we have so many times before. 

Changing The Tides

Our children are already carrying so much in their own lives that for many years it falls solely upon us to reach out. It’s a nice thought that they would call on us weekly for a quick chat, and some surely do, but the mass majority will be so focused on their own issues that they forget we have lives of our own that we want to share with them.

In light of this, we have to embrace our new role. From the ages of 18 to somewhere around 30, or at least until they’ve settled into their new normal, we are a supporting role that offers holiday traditions and a lifeline when they need it. 

We are a constant that they don’t feel the pressure to continually upkeep, and that’s a beautiful thing. Friendships end and relationships fade, but a parent’s unconditional love and support is always there. No matter what twists and turns our children’s lives take, they know they can count on us. 

That doesn’t mean you have to settle for holidays and handout requests. It simply means that cultivating communication is going to be one-sided for a while. You can still put in the effort to invite them over and make a call during a pre-agreed time each week or month.

True, this isn’t going to be as prolific as it was before, and they might even cancel a few times here and there, but as long as the branch is extended regularly, they’ll take it and show up as much as they can.

If your son only contacts you when he wants something, don’t hold it against them. They will not be able to reach out as often as they are settling down into a new life.

Eventually, their life will take on the same cycle yours did, and they’ll begin to reach out. They’ll enter another season that values familial ties above all else, especially once they have a family of their own.

This is when you can expect what you’re so desperately wanting without being the only one to put in the work. 

Careful Considerations

When navigating the adult parent-child relationship, there’s a fine line between being a part of their lives and trying to control certain aspects of it. Inserting yourself into it with opposing opinions is a sure-fire way to break the branch in half while wondering what’s caused the rift.

If you’ve had dealings in the past where you spent much of your phone call with them disproving of their actions, it makes sense that they would gather as much space around themselves as possible and only turn to you when they have no other choice.

Try to stay positive and offer support without demanding anything in return. Far too many parent-child relationships devolve into a battle for control, even once they’ve grown up. 

If your son only contacts you when he wants something, it would help if you were open and honest with how you feel about the lack of communication. Have you taken the time to let them know your feelings are hurt when they only call for help? We often try to shield our children from emotional distress, but they’re old enough now to talk to as one would a friend.

You can tell them you’d like to hear from them sometime when there isn’t an issue afoot. Don’t make it chiding or manipulative, and don’t withhold your help to make it happen, but you can be upfront.

This is part of the adult relationship you will build with them, and it’s a teaching moment they might need. As busy as they are, they may not have even noticed that you’re sitting there awaiting a call or continuously thinking about them.

They aren’t mind-readers any more than you are, and they deserve a heads up so they can rectify the situation. 

Another reason they might be distant is due to the fact that they are dealing with mental health issues. Make sure to ask your son if he is dealing with any mental or emotional issues and offer help if so.

Offer Time Together

If your son only contacts you when he wants somethingt, a great way to get the family channels back open is a family vacation. Often, this is the only time throughout the year other than holidays that you can be sure they’ll show up, and it’s the perfect opportunity to check in with everyone and build new memories together, especially if they’ve moved far away.

It doesn’t have to be an expensive excursion by any means. You can rent a cabin in the mountains or a beach house and gather everyone together in a new family tradition.

Touching base like this, without expectations, will go a long way towards organically cultivating the adult parent-child relationship you’re striving towards, and you won’t feel quite so jaded when they call and ask for help. Instead, you’ll feel proud they knew they could contact you. 

There can be several reasons why your son only contacts you when he wants something.

Final Thoughts – If your son only contacts you when he wants something

We as parents would love if our children have an open line on constant communication with us. Unfornatanlt, this can be very rare especially if they are transitioning into adulthood.

The best way to handle this situation is to stay patient and communicate with them about how we feel. All it takes is a simple reminder that you would love to spend time with them or at least hear their voice so you can be comforted.

Understanding that they have busy lives will make this process easier for you. They are navigating their way into a new life so the best thing you can do is to offer unconditional love and support.

Related: Why is my 23 year old son so angry

Thank you!

As always, thank you for turning to us with your parenting questions and for raising wonderful human beings. You’re not wrong in feeling hurt during this transition, and you are not alone. Every parent faces these issues at some time or another, and we are always here to help put things into perspective. Good luck!