From the time women are young, they hear about the most publicized aspects of menopause. Hot flashes, night sweats, and moodiness are just a few of the symptoms often portrayed on television commercials.
But most parents don’t want their children to learn about life from commercials. It is especially important for a parent to be proactive about having a discussion about menopause if that parent is going through menopause herself. This will help a teenager understand what changes to expect.
Explain the Symptoms
While TV commercials try to appropriately dramatize the symptoms of menopause, your teenager likely won’t have a real feel for what the symptoms really are. Interestingly, your teenager is probably the most likely to understand what you’re going through, since teenagers are going through hormonal changes also. Sure, he or she is dealing with a surge in hormones while your body is coping with a gradual loss of them, but the changes you are going through may bear marked similarities, especially the mood swings.
Explaining the hormonal changes your body is going through can make a huge difference in helping your teenager understand what you’re going through. Describing the drop in estrogen that has caused your hot flashes to skyrocket, for instance, will help your teenager understand it more than simply explaining menopause causes you to overheat and sweat.
The truth is, if you are hitting menopause at the same time your child is going through adolescence, you may be in for a bumpy ride. While explaining the reason for your moodiness may not be an instant fix-all, it may be something your teenager keeps in mind the next time the two of you get into an argument.
Use “Teenager Speak”
Parents of teenagers learn quickly that if they want to talk, they have to initiate the discussion. Teenagers are likely to resist sitting down with you, so insist on a set time to have the talk. Make sure there are no distractions—force your teenager to put his or her cell on silent and you do the same. This time should be set aside for the two of you.
One thing to keep in mind when talking to your teenager is that teenagers don’t always respond as quickly as you want them to. Allow plenty of time for your teenager to think about his or her response, rather than rushing to fill any silences with more talk. It is important that you make your teenager feel that you are willing to listen.
Also understand that everything doesn’t have to be said at once. Open a dialogue about the issue of menopause and let your child know that if he or she wants to talk to you further, you’re always open to it. Find other moments to bring it up. When a symptom is affecting your ability to be productive in your household, explain it then.
Ask for Help
If you’re like many women, chances are you push yourself to the breaking point. The stress of being an extremely busy woman can add to your symptoms, making things worse than they have to be. Your teenager can be a valuable resource in helping you manage the pressures of daily life. Have your teenager help out with chores or, at the very least, clean up after themself. Rely on the people who care about you most.
If you’re married and/or have other children in the household, ask everyone to pitch in. You can even draw up a schedule of chores that everyone can partake in to take some of the pressure off “mom.” Once everyone in your family understands what you’re going through and how it’s making you feel, they’ll probably be happy to help out any way they can.
Questions to Expect
Your talk may be set with stony silence, complete with plenty of, “Are we finished now?” questions. But your teenager may surprise you by going in the opposite direction. It’s best to be prepared for some of the questions your teenager may ask before sitting down for the conversation.
One of the main questions a female teenager may ask is in relation to her own future menopause. Is this something that will happen to her? When? The answer is that 45-55 is the normal age range for menopause, although most women will begin to see symptoms manifest earlier. It’s important to stress to your teenager that each woman’s experience is different.
Whether your family members are male or female, they’re likely to ask how this will affect them. Will your mood swings make you impossible to live with? The honest answer to that is—maybe. But you’ll do your best to exhibit the same loving patience you’ve always shown with everyone in your life. This is the point where you can ask your family to help out, making things a little easier while you’re going through this difficult time.
If you’ve been putting off a conversation with your teenager about menopause, there’s no need to put it off any longer. Just be open and honest and you’ll find yourself wondering why you waited so long.