Teenage son lacks empathy for mom's feelings

Kathy - posted on 04/27/2012 ( 9 moms have responded )

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I must confess that sometimes I really hate my 18-year-old son. He brings all of his wit, charm, and other good qualities to his friends, but rarely to me. He seems to lack total empathy for my feelings, and it really hurts. Sorry, I just needed to vent this morning....my mother is selling her house after 55 years, and I didn't expect for it to hit me so hard. I had a wonderful, but bittersweet time cleaning out my childhood home with my sisters. They all live four hours away. And then I come home to a son who barely acknowledges my existence. He didn't ask me anything about how it all went, nor does he seem to care what goes on in MY life. I know this is all "normal" for a teenaged son, but it still hurts. He's also my only child.

He's moving out this summer, and I used to think it would really hit me hard. But now, sometimes, I can't wait. We used to be so close. I have been divorced since Connor was 7, and have an amicable relationship with his father, who lives nearby.

Thanks for listening...

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Kathy - posted on 05/16/2016

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Thanks so much, everyone! I am reading these wonderful, caring responses four years later, and I'm happy to report that things between my now 22-year old son and I have gotten MUCH better. You were right, it IS a phase, and thankfully, it seems to be over. This is a great, safe place to go for encouragement and support. Moms are the BEST!

Love to all, Kathy

Louise - posted on 04/27/2012

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I am afraid this is very normal for teenagers. They are selfish! My son is also 18 and I had to take my 3 year old to the emergency room as she was having trouble breathing so I let him know where I was. On the way back we bumped into each other as he was driving the other way. I pulled over expecting him to enquire after his sister instead all I got was "I wont be back for tea mum I'm going to Jacks party" and with that he drove off!

I am pleased to report that they do snap out of this eventually. My other son who is 21 and has moved out to university, is in constant contact and wants to know about everything that is going on at home.

Don't get upset, he is not doing this on perpus. He is just blind to what is going on around him as he is tangled up in his own little world.

Trudy - posted on 05/06/2012

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Don't worry I think it's just how some teen boys are! My son is now 20 years old and he has (since a very young age) the type of personality that if you aren't shoving something in his face he doesn't notice or want to notice. So if I'm having a bad day he has no empathy for me whatsoever and just acts like everything is normal or if I'm a bit grumpy and answer him a bit abruptly (from having a bad day) he takes it personally and we have had arguments which are usually because "I've" upset him...!? I think his personality is just that he rarely sees other people's views (including mine) I guess because I am his mum and he probably just expects me to be "there" for him and not the other way around... He was worse when he was 16-18 but has gotten slightly better since hitting 19-20 but only slightly... He just seems very selfish at times and his sister (my daughter) gets quite upset with him at times too with his lack of empathy. At times I've also felt like he simply hates me and doesn't care and therefore I end up disliking him also.

My husband of 23 years has always been quite "neutral" and not overly sympathetic to myself or other family members in distress so I blame this in part. I think some men don't like showing emotion thus teaching this to their sons. My husband isn't harsh or nasty to me or other family members but then he doesn't "verbally" support people having an "emotional" time either (sometimes looks like he's not even listening when I'm telling him about my day!?)

But I've also noticed a few times when I've let my son know with more than subtle hints that I'm having a bad day and ask for a hug he will gladly do so BUT this is only when I initiate it! He simply doesn't have the foresight or initiative to be empathic. I seem to get more sympathy from my daughter (now 16 years old) who has so much more initiative and foresight and knows when to approach and when not to etc however, she has also been a bit distant and unapproachable herself of late (being 16) but I'm hoping she eventually comes around and goes back to her normal self when she's older... In the meantime I will try and let them both know if I'm having a bad day and hey a bit of sympathy wouldn't hurt!

Angie - posted on 04/28/2012

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The other posters are right...this is normal. He's not doing it to hurt your feelings, unfortunately you are just not a priority right now...he's 18 and dealing with so many changes himself and it's just what is important to you isn't necessarily to him right now. There is the other side ~ I'd resigned myself that it would happen around 23-24..imagine my elated surprise mine started around 20, although he sometimes has lapses..lol. And here's the other great thing, it's kind of nice when they go home..lol...I see mine probably more now than when he lived at home, but now that time is even more meaningful as he is choosing to come over for that time...I promise you, it will get better..that closeness will be back :)

Angela - posted on 04/28/2012

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Hi Kathy,
I feel for you with all my heart. My son is only 16 but also has no empathy for me, among many other teenage personality problems.
It can feel as though someone took your sweet child away and left a grown up with an attitude in their place.
Hang on to the memory of the sweet kid that lies somewhere deep inside your young adult and know that one day he will come back to you. He will remember all the fun and good times you've shared. He will remember also how mean and selfish he was with you. And hopefully, you two will have a new friendship that will last a lifetime.
Best wishes to you and all the mothers of these strange "beings"....teenagers.

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Janine - posted on 05/16/2016

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If you understood the meaning of empathy you would not have posted this responce.
In responce to: ♫ Shawnn ♪♫♫ Lively

♫ Shawnn ♪♫♫ - posted on 05/03/2012

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Now, please don't take that wrong, because I know that your heart is breaking. You had a tough day. Not tough like bad, but its tough going thru old belongings, etc...Like you say, bittersweet. All of the memories, etc...Oh boy. I'm an emotional wreck after a day like that! All you wanted was maybe a hug from your boy, right? Next time, let him know "hey, son, I had kind of a weird day, and I really could use a hug"...You might be amazed!

I guess my boys are most definitely not normal then.

both of my sons will take the time to see how I'm doing, see how my day has been, etc. If they know that I'm facing something stressful, they'll text me, or email me to tell me they love me.

Of course, they see their dad doing the same, and we've always, ALWAYS talked about all of our days, how everyone's day went, how things are going for all of us, etc, so they're used to this type of thing.

How can your kids express empathy for you if you don't teach them how? With my kids, we always would ask how their day went, and then tell them how our day went, showing them that it was a chance for conversation and to touch base with each other.

Kathy - posted on 04/27/2012

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Awww...thanks so much for the caring response, Louise. You made my day a whole lot brighter!

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