By Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC
Women are getting married later in life and having their children later as well. There are advantages to this, because moms and dads have more emotional maturity before they begin their family. However, one of the big disadvantages is that for women it’s becoming more and more likely they will go through menopause while their daughter is going through puberty.
Going through peri-menopause, menopause and puberty are rites of passage and each one tough. You feel moody, irritable, bloated, and exhausted. For moms with small children, it can be overwhelming during this time. But even worse than caring for small children is going through the change of life with a daughter who is going through puberty. You may imagine being on a deserted island where you have only your inner conflicts to deal with, but most moms don’t have that luxury and that means dealing with a daughter who is as moody, irritable and frustrated as you.
There are changes for moms and daughters during this time, and being aware of the body’s changes helps moms react less and keep communication open between themselves and their daughters. With menopause, the changes in hormones affect sleep, worsen moods, cause acne, worsen headaches, lowers libido and decreases the ability to deal with stress–and what mother isn’t stressed? When girls go through puberty, their hormones are just as imbalanced, which causes bloating, weight gain, acne, fatigue, headaches, and an attitude that clear screams, “Leave me alone!”
There are things women can do that will help both themselves and their daughter(s) get through this life passage together without hating each other or becoming arch enemies. It will demand more understanding on moms’ part because, after all, mom is the adult.
Solutions to calming a house full of hormones:
1. As much as possible, keep family peace as a priority in your home. When you’re feeling irritable, hot, or stressed, understand this is hormonal and temporary. Evaluating if some issue is really necessary to confront “right now” will prevent additional drama.
2. Enlist the help of your partner. Ask them to try to be supportive and understanding. Let them know that sometimes the best way to help will be to just let the anger be vented and not to react. The partner can also say, “Take a deep breath. It will be okay.” That might diffuse a pending explosion, and if it doesn’t, the partner should just put on a flame-retardant suit and back away.
3. Exercise with your daughter. Weight gain is a symptom of both menopause and puberty. Going to an exercise class together or taking long walks or bike rides together can open communication and help you both deal with stress.
4. Get closer with your partner. Getting away with your partner and telling him how you feel can help you feel supported and loved at a time when you are feeling miserable about yourself.
5. Talk to your health care provider if your symptoms interfere with your daily life. No one can function if they cannot sleep or if they suffer severe fatigue. When hormonal shifts become severe, it is wise to talk to your physician. Depression as well as heightened anxiety are frequently seen and are usually easily treated.
With menopause–as with puberty–there is a grieving of the past but also an opportunity for a new sense of freedom. People who breeze through menopause are the same ones who embrace the change and keep a positive attitude. Weight gain, frustration and increased stress are symptoms of hormonal shifts, but that doesn’t mean you have to gain weight, be frustrated or stressed out.
– Preparing your mind to help your body go through the changes is a big predictor in determining how disruptive the change of life will be for you.
Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at StartTalkingBook.com and more about Rapini at maryjorapini.com.