Menopause and Parenting: How to Talk to Teenagers about Menopause
As more women choose to have children after the age of 30, it’s becoming increasingly common for women to be going through their menopause transition as they’re parenting teenagers. It’s challenging enough for a woman to go through the changes and uncomfortable symptoms of menopause, but when this coincides with her children's own pubescent hormone fluctuations, it can result in what one mom called a “hormonal house of hell.”
Perimenopause is the stage before menopause, and it is likely when you’ll begin experiencing many of the symptoms we think of as “menopausal.” Perimenopause can start in the mid 30s, and it lasts between 5-10 years2,3. Menopause typically occurs between the age of 45-55, when women are most likely to have teenagers at home. The result is that millions of women are parenting teenagers, (with all of their raging hormones), at the exact same time they are experiencing the height of their menopause symptoms.
For many who choose to start a family a bit later, the combination of puberty and menopause can be bewildering. Slamming doors, shouting, or even sobbing come to mind. While we all aspire to be fun, smart, caring, and calm parents, when we are in the grip of our own shifting hormones, that’s a pretty tough goal. Because we often refrain from talking about the world of menopause symptoms, we and our families alike can be left in the dark.
It can be discouraging to think that just as women are reaching such a critical stage in their family, they can also be experiencing depression, anxiety, insomnia, chronic fatigue, hot flashes and night sweats, mind fog, cognitive impairment, and much more. Despite the fact that one in four women will experience very serious menopause systems, it is rarely addressed appropriately within a family.
Managing Menopausal Symptoms
Ignoring menopause is not a solution to the symptoms and the adverse impacts they can have on our relationships with our teenagers. So, what can we do? Becoming familiar with the symptoms of hormone fluctuations can help you and your teenagers understand what you’re both dealing with; together, you can control symptoms so they don’t adversely impact your relationship.
First, face the challenge of menopausal symptoms head-on. Accept menopause, and treat the underlying cause of your symptoms, so that you can live your healthiest, happiest life. Addressing your symptoms so you feel more like yourself can help you manage your teen’s ups and downs more productively.
Since decreasing hormones are the root cause of the many symptoms women experience, supplementing hormones with safe, medically-prescribed hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a great option. The earlier you start, the better. If you wait too long, (past 60 years of age without having tried HRT), you may not be eligible for the treatments that could help you most.
Women are not likely to sail through menopause by drinking tea or taking special vitamins. The reality is that 80% of women in menopause have far-reaching symptoms – including brain fog, anxiety, weight gain, low libido, depression, sleeplessness, exhaustion, vaginal dryness, and stiff joints. With HRT, women can look forward to fewer debilitating symptoms that can adversely affect their quality of life and ability to parent the way they want to. See what our patients are saying about Winona's treatments.
Surveys of thousands of women in their menopause transition show that the majority of women felt better about life after treating their symptoms than they did even 10 years before. They experienced more hope, increased happiness with their bodies, newfound optimism about careers, and more excitement about their family5,6,7.
Feel like yourself again.
Approaching Your Teens
It’s important that before you try to talk to your kids about menopause, you learn all you can about what you’re going through. You’ll then be better able to help your teenagers understand it too. There are so many unfounded myths about menopause, and just like with any taboo topic, there is a rich history of why people have perpetuated misinformation. We encourage you to peruse Winona’s full library of perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause articles to empower yourself through trusted information.
In simple terms, menopause occurs because estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels drop naturally as we age. Some hormones drop as low as 50% of what they were at age 20. But menopause is not an “old woman” thing. Some millennials are already entering perimenopause, and they have yet to reach 40.
Menopause is normal, and your kids need to understand that. Every year in the US alone, millions of women will enter their menopause transition. By 2025, there will be 1 billion women worldwide dealing with menopause and symptoms. Yet, menopause is still a taboo topic - especially when it comes to talking about it with your family.
Because menopause feels like a secret, it’s easy for misinformation to circulate. By embracing menopause as a stage of life, just like puberty or our reproductive years, we can normalize the conversation and talk about it honestly. Talking with your kids about menopause early is a great way to foster knowledge and compassion.
A big part of the problem with most women’s menopause journey is that family, friends, and sadly even doctors just aren't prepared to talk about it. But that is not a reason to suffer in silence. Teach your teens that you will not do so, and likewise, they should not feel they have to be silent and uncomfortable in the face of their own journey with puberty/adolescence.
Teach both daughters and sons about ageism and how important it is to stand up against it and the stigma surrounding menopause. Unfortunately, even though aging is natural and universal, women suffer far more from ageism than men4,5.
Validate and Encourage
Being a teenager is hard. They are under pressure to be liked, get good grades, get along with family, and make big life decisions. They are likely experiencing mood swings and may be having intense feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or worthlessness. While some of this is hormonal, it could also be warning signs of a mental health problem. Open, encouraging conversations about mental health are always a good idea.
In that spirit, share about your own experience. Explain that moodiness, mental health issues, depression, and suicidality increase with age, and oftentimes these issues are related to the ever-decreasing hormones with menopause. You’re not “crazy,” and neither are they. You both might just need some help to weather this storm.
Recognize that pushing away may be a feature of both of your transitions. Teenagers are supposed to push away from adults - especially their moms. It is a positive sign that they are developing their own identities, but it can hurt, especially when you might already be feeling quite emotional. Know that they need you more than ever, but the push/pull is completely normal.
Encourage them to distance themselves, but let them know that you are going through something too. You both can offer some support to one another in your respective experiences. Promise them that you will let them feel their feelings, and you will get through this time together.24
Identify intentional ways to connect with your teens. We all have busy lives, so many of our conversations are about logistics. We often forget to make room for authentic conversation. Setting aside specific times during the week where your teen has your full attention, and you have theirs, is critical. Put the phone away, turn off the game, and talk to each other. This consistent space for conversation can take a variety of forms. Find what works for your family, and make the time.
This hormonal roller coaster can be a great opportunity to bond with your teen. Identify that you are going through similar experiences. You are both experiencing hormonal storms that feel strange, unfamiliar, and out of control. Your bodies are acting in ways that may make you feel like you are just along for the ride. You’re both experiencing changing genitalia, libido transitions, acne, increased irritability, hair growth in unfamiliar places, sweating that is new to them, and an overall identity reinvention.
Share with your teen what the differences and similarities are for both of you. These changes might be exciting and scary at the same time. Maybe they are seeing changes in their bodies that they have been waiting for, but it can also feel uncomfortable and unwelcome sometimes. Your body is likely to be changing too, and you both may have complicated feelings about what you’re dealing with. Sharing with one another can help you feel empathy and compassion.
Say goodbye to hormonal weight gain
Yes, it might be hard to talk to your teenager about these sometimes very private experiences, but talking about a taboo takes away its power and can reap huge rewards. Talking about your experience and challenges can normalize the conversation and help your teen to feel empowered to speak up when they are dealing with their own hormone changes and symptoms14
Accept this as a phase of independence and an awakening for both you and your teen. Once you accept that menopause symptoms are treatable, you can work with your teens to move into a phase of life that is far more welcoming.
Take care of yourself, especially when you are contending with menopause and parenting. Dealing with menopause silently is not necessary and can prevent your family from helping you during this challenging time. You should not be alone on your menopause journey - ask them to join and support you. We all have a story to tell, share yours with your teens today.
The drop in hormones during menopause can have far-reaching effects. Winona can help. Safe, natural, doctor-prescribed bio-identical HRT is available.
“This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.”