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While younger mothers are entering peri-menopause around the time their children are in college, older moms can expect to enter this phase of life change when their kids are tweens or teens. Some would consider a menopausal woman and a teenager a lethal combination, but it is my belief that this aspect of later motherhood is something you will want to simply be aware of and plan for in advance.
Actually, tweens, teens and menopausal women have a lot in common; both are experiencing major life transitions. As with any other transition, there are losses as well as gains. For teens, the loss of childhood is essential to entering adulthood. For menopausal women, the loss of the monthly cycle is essential to the freedom from it. This can be an incredible bonding time for mother and child vs. the fear and panic that many people associate with these shifts. Both are going through a natural process toward another phase in life. Committing to a shared health and fitness program can allow both to cope with and minimize the presenting negative symptoms.
For example, I know a 13-year-old who became vegan and enjoyed learning to cook in this style. Her 55-year-old mother, who was happy to have someone relieve her in the kitchen, quickly came to appreciate her daughter’s cooking skills and also the food. She lost weight, slept better, had more energy, and is now a complete vegan herself.
This is the time for older moms to have open conversations with their child and see how they are feeling about their changing body, sexual curiosity, and all the normal frustrations and self-doubts that come with change. The wise mother will see the parallels of her child’s feelings to her own, and will share them, without “upstaging” the child.
Teenagers, above all else, are truth-seeking missiles. Letting them know the truth will allow them to weather their own with more ease, hope, and humor. Further, modeling a healthy approach and positive attitude toward menopause will serve them in the years to come. They will be more sensitive to their mother and other menopausal women, as well as preparing themselves (or future mates) for this later in life.
You may even want to do research together, or go to a zoo or farm and learn how other animals handle growth and change. Seeing how human beings are the only ones who create negative connotations to natural life changes can be freeing. Explain the importance of necessary frustration. The caterpillar furiously stretches its’ limbs, spinning a cocoon. To the observer, this appears frustrating, yet the caterpillar knows instinctively that all this work is an investment in the next phase. Without this necessary frustration and activity, there would be no cocoon and no metamorphosis into a butterfly.
Menopausal mothers and their children are both metamorphosing. Celebrate it! If you are an older mother, when your daughter has her first period, celebrate it! Take her out to dinner at her favorite restaurant. Ditto when your son’s voice changes. Ditto when you get your first hot flashes.
Who says change has to be hard and scary? It can be fun and creative. Preparation and a positive expectation for these natural transitions are your power tools. Ask your tween or teen what kind of teen he or she would like to be…what their goals are…who their teenage role models are. Ask yourself who your menopausal role models are. Do you want to move through this period with grace and humor, or like a bitter middle-age crow who ruminates about her youth?
The renowned anthropologist, Margaret Mead, wrote about the “menopausal zest” women experience when they get that rush of freedom from pregnancy and childrearing duties, seeing this as a time to embrace a new form of self-expression in the world, providing a wonderful balance between others and self. A marvelous model for your child.
Notes for this blog:
Dr. Irwin is a doctor of clinical psychology and certified hypnotherapist in private practice in West Los Angeles, California. Watch her video on later motherhood at FlowerPowerMom.com: http://www.achildafter40.com/our_expert_panel/#irwin-ex-top (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/our_expert_panel/#irwin-ex-top). She is also a public speaker and author of YOU-TURN: CHANGING DIRECTION IN MIDLIFE (Amazon, 2008). 310/235-2882. www.drnancyirwin.com (http://www NULL.drnancyirwin NULL.com/) www.makeayou-turn.com (http://www NULL.makeayou-turn NULL.com/) www.YouTube/DrNancyIrwin
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