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Talking to your kids about menopause — no matter what age they are

It's important to let your children know what's going on

menopause family
Melanie Macleod
Melanie MacleodWellness Editor
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Before experiencing perimenopause firsthand, you might assume the worst part to deal with would be the stereotypical sitcom symptoms of hot flashes and mood swings — and that you could navigate the ordeal alone without telling your family.

READ: How to fix your sex and relationship issues during menopause

Unfortunately, for many people, the symptoms of perimenopause – including irritability, tiredness and brain fog – become so severe that your family might notice. Even the most calm, cool, and collected among us have seen our temperaments become volatile during perimenopause, often causing upset within the family.

With this in mind, it's vital to talk to your kids to alleviate any worries they might have about your sudden change in behavior.

READ: What to do when menopause impacts your work, according to an HR expert

MORE: Menopause sleep problems: causes and treatments

"The idea of opening up to your family about menopause can understandably feel daunting," says Hannah Karim, of later living marketplace Lottie. "But it will be a huge relief to speak about what you're going through."

Do my children really need to know?

While it's natural to want to protect your children from what's happening, they'll likely have noticed something is up, making it even more important that you're open with them. "Without even speaking about the changes you're experiencing, your family members will feel that something is different and may not understand what is happening," says parenting expert and psychotherapist Charlotte Armitage.

"Your children may feel they can't talk to you as normal, or that you aren't placing as much importance on them, when in fact brain fog is simply affecting your temporary memory," says Aimée Benbow, head of nutrition at Viridian Nutrition and author of The Menopause Journal.

Perimenopause-related forgetfulness may make it challenging for you to manage family schedules and irritability may cause reactive outbursts, Aimée adds.

No matter if you have young children or teens, they will likely feel the impact of what you're going through. "Kids may feel like they have done something wrong, or they might worry about your health," says Aimée "It can be a confusing time if they don't understand why their mother is acting differently and could potentially lead to a change in the behavior from your child as well."

Older kids aren't immune to upset either, as Aimee points out: "Teenagers can find it especially difficult as they are likely to be going through just as much hormonal turbulence."

How to talk to your children about menopause

When explaining anything to children, you need to talk in an age-appropriate way, Charlotte advises.

"How menopause is explained will depend on the age of your children, how much knowledge they already have and how you feel about the experience yourself," she explains. "Providing young children with too much information can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. However, not providing enough information to older children can be frustrating and cause anxiety too. This is because they'll sense that something isn't right and will want enough knowledge to help them to make sense of what is happening."

Think carefully about what you’d like to say

Menopause can make you feel irritated, anxious, and stressed, so it's important to write down anything you'd like to speak about with your family and friends beforehand, suggests Hannah.

Make sure you feel comfortable

"Sometimes, it can feel easier to open up in a public place, or you may prefer the quietness of your own home," says Hannah. "Choose wherever you feel at your most comfortable."

If you're nervous about talking to young children about it, consider chatting while you're doing an activity they enjoy — crafting or baking at home, for example. For older kids, chatting on a walk could work, or over coffee and cake in a café. Make it feel like you're out for a treat, and talk to them as fellow grown-ups, confiding in one another.

Safety in numbers

If you have a trusted friend or family member who is close to your family, have them by your side for the chat – they can help lead any question and encourage your kids to ask anything they want to know without feeling shy or embarrassed.

Give examples

We'd advise starting the discussion by explaining how you've been feeling, referring to specific examples, such as "Do you remember last week when I was annoyed about XXXX?" or "Have you noticed I've been forgetting things more?"

This will help your children understand what's been going on, with concrete examples to apply their new knowledge to. It also means they'll understand what's going on if it happens again and will reassure them if you seem irritable it's not, and has never been, their fault.

Encourage questions

Make sure your children feel comfortable asking questions, either in the moment or in the future. The more they understand, the happier your home will be.

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