Ellen Sarver Dolgen
"E" is the pen name of Ellen Sarver Dolgen, author of Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness, a light-hearted, informative, easy-to-read book on menopause, and creator of http://www.shmirshky.com, a resource treasure trove for women going through perimenopause and menopause. E stands for everyone because everyone goes through menopause or knows someone who does. Ellen is passionate about promoting health and wellness in America. She currently serves on the Community Advisory Board of Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla. She has served on boards, committees, and chaired numerous events for Fresh Start Women’s Foundation, Angel Charity for Children, San Diego Hospice. Brandeis University, the Phoenix Heart Ball, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Weizmann Institute of Science, Brewster Auxiliary, and Handmaker Home for the Aging. Ellen’s lifelong commitment to philanthropy through board representation, fundraising, and event organization continues with her founding of Shmirshky Universal, which aims to promote women's health and well being around the world. For more information, visit http://www.shmirshky.com.
Now, more than ever, so many households are experiencing puberty and perimenopause and menopause (I call it PM&M for short) at the same time. Why? In 1980, the average age of a first time mother was 23. In 2010 that number jumped to almost 27 (26.8). This matches up a 14 year old child with a 41 year old mother. So what happens when you mix adolescent hormones and menopausal hormones in the same house? Hormone combustion!
These days, households with both teens and moms entering perimenopause and menopause (PM&M) can reach an atmosphere of playoff intensity and become a place of hate and not love. That’s not a beneficial situation for anyone! I’ve heard so many stories that absolutely break my heart. From children going to stay with friends because neither child nor parent knew how to resolve the issues, to separation and divorce.
Sound familiar? You’re not alone.
The good news is that amidst all this chaos, there is an opportunity to turn this time into one of growth and connection. We can all get through this together, if we really get down to the business of what’s really going on. Often the anger or frustration that we send outward is really just an overflow, or misdirection, of that same anger and frustration that we might have towards ourselves. Working on yourself, your own personal growth, knowing your body and being prepared, will help ease the tension you have in your relationships – particular with those closest to you.
It seems as soon as our children begin puberty they stop talking. They begin pushing adult figures away in an attempt to achieve independence. This process is hard enough on mom, but if she is experiencing perimenopause and menopause (PM&M), it’s a dangerous combination. Often this leads to a lack – or complete loss of – communication between mother and child. When the communication lines are down, everyone suffers.
How do you fix this? Keep talking! Dig it out! A simple hug instead of a look of disgust is a good place to begin. To do this, both the menopausal mother and the teen need to try to stop personalizing everything each other is saying and doing. It is nobody’s fault. Everyone is dealing with their own personal challenges. Keeping this fact in mind can be liberating. Your teen may roll their eyes and look at you like you’re an alien from outer space, but just ignore that. It’s kind of how they look at everything; it’s really not about you. Keep communicating no matter what the response is.
Be the first to give. If you share your challenges openly, you show that you’re willing to be vulnerable. This can be an incredible example to set for a child who’s going through a tough and confusing time. When you reach out and share your struggles, you’re setting an example through your actions that it’s okay to not be fine, it’s okay to be confused and frustrated, and it’s okay to reach out to your loved ones for support.
Look, teens can be total monsters (weren’t you?), but remember, so can a menopausal woman! Of course, every situation is different, and it may take some tinkering to customize this loving approach to fit your family structure, but the more we educate our loved ones and ourselves, the happier and more understanding the whole household will be.
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