6 Ways to Talk to Your Children About Menopause

Last updated 11.22.2023 | by Dr. Karen Pike | 10 Minutes Read

This article has been reviewed and fact checked by Dr. Karen Pike, a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. Read more at our medical disclaimer page.


Menopause can present several challenges for women. And with symptoms such as hot flashes, insomnia, and mood swings, some days, you don’t feel like yourself.

These physical and emotional changes can cause you to act differently. And sooner or later, your loved ones are going to notice.

But while it’s tempting to brush menopause under the rug entirely, even the youngest children are able to pick up on how their mommy is feeling. That’s why, no matter how old your kids are, it’s important to know how to talk to them about this significant phase in your life.

When I first started experiencing symptoms of menopause, I found it hard enough to discuss this personal subject with my partner. It felt like a topic I’d rather avoid. So, I didn’t even consider communicating the ins and outs of menopause with my children. 

But after some tough days when my hot flashes and mood swings were at their worst, I realized that I’d have to find a way to explain to them what was happening with Mom.

So, I began to describe some of the symptoms I was having to help them understand what was going on, and reassure them that everything was okay.

Of course, it’s not always easy to open up a dialogue about menopause with your children. Does the idea of sitting your kids down and explaining your symptoms fill you with dread? Are you embarrassed about sharing such intimate details with your family? Don’t worry, you’re certainly not alone, and many women, including myself, have felt the same way.

That’s why I’ve put together this post with 6 tips to help you break the ice with your kids and open up about menopause.

6 tips on Talking to Your Children About Menopause

6 tips on Talking to Your Children About Menopause

Explaining this natural phase of life to kids can feel like a minefield. Whatever your children’s age, the conversation can feel a little awkward or embarrassing. And, if it’s not handled correctly, it can leave them feeling even more confused than they already were.

But being open and honest with your kids can strengthen your family bond and help you feel more supported and understood. So, here are 6 tips that can help you share your menopausal journey in an honest and understandable way.

1. Have an Age-Appropriate Conversation

In the last few decades, women have started having children later in life. So, many of us are reaching menopause while our kids are still very young.

So, if you have toddlers or little kids, the way you explain the transition you are going through needs to be appropriate to their age and level of understanding.

Most youngsters don’t yet know about the birds and the bees, and menstruation probably isn’t on their radar. If this is the case, skip the finer details of the menopausal process and instead, take a more abstract approach.

You might want to explain that mommy is going through a natural change that happens to all women when they get older. And part of that change means that sometimes, you get a little hot and bothered.

Remember to emphasize that it’s nothing for them to worry about. You’re not sick, and eventually, all your pesky symptoms will go away on their own. In the meantime, now that they understand what’s happening, there’s no need to be upset if you’re acting a little strange.

If you have older children, such as adolescents and teenagers, they are likely to be a little more clued-in to human biology. So, it might be appropriate to discuss in more detail what menopause is all about.

Kids at this age will be having hormonal shifts of their own. So, you can explain that you’re going through something similar, and this completely natural phase will pass for you all.

One of my close friend’s daughters was in her early teens when my friend first broached the subject of her own menopause with her family. So, my friend explained that while mom was coming to the end of her menstruating journey, she was just beginning hers. This turned out to be a bonding lesson for them both.

2. Reassure them You’re okay

Young children are likely to be upset if they see mommy panting and dripping in sweat in the middle of a hot flash. After all, they have no idea that what you’re experiencing is a common symptom of a normal phase of life. In their eyes, you might be sick and in pain. And so, their natural response will be to worry.

So, it’s essential to explain some of the visible and noticeable symptoms to your younger children so they can be reassured that you’re okay.

If there’s another parent around at home, get them on board. Explain to your kids as a couple that mommy is just having a “hot flash,” which is perfectly normal, and it will be over soon. Reassure them that lots of other mommies also have hot flashes sometimes, and it’s just part of being a woman.

If your kids are a little older, it’s still important to reassure them, too. Let them know that your symptoms aren’t a sign that you’re unwell or suffering from anything other than regular menopause symptoms.

3. Keep it Simple

Little kids don’t need to know the full details of what’s happening in your body during your menopausal transition. They also won’t be able to grasp complex terminology or figure out the human reproductive cycle at this age.

So, don’t worry about offering a science lesson to your younger children. This is likely to leave them feeling even more confused than they were to begin with. Instead, keep it simple and focus on reassuring them rather than educating them.

Likewise, if you have adolescent or teenage boys, they probably don’t want to know the details about what’s happening to their mom’s body. Topics such as periods and female anatomy are likely to make them squirm with embarrassment. So you may want to spare them the gory details, even if they’re old enough to understand.

Instead, you could simply explain that you’re going through “the change”, just like all women around your age. Like them, your hormones are a little all over the place right now. Ask them to be patient with you while you’re dealing with the symptoms and to cut you some slack on the thermostat next time you’re having a hot flash.

4. Use Humor

Depending on the context, you might want to inject a little humor into your conversations, especially with your older children.

This approach seemed to work well for my family. I’d share a little joke about hormones or the fact that I was going through ‘reverse puberty’, to make both they, and I, feel more comfortable and at ease. After all, it’s not always easy to discuss such a sensitive and personal subject. So, try to keep it light, and remember that menopause doesn’t have to be a big, serious topic in your household.

You might even want to give your menopausal irritability a nickname. For example, Mood swing Mona. Obviously, nobody likes Mona, but thankfully, she doesn’t usually stick around for too long.

5. Give Each Other Space

If you have a teenager, hormones are already likely to be raging through your household. Irritability and mood swings are part and parcel of growing up from a child into an adult.

And now that you’re going through perimenopause or menopause, your own hormonal fluctuations are being thrown into the mix. This can lead to some pretty explosive arguments if things aren’t managed correctly.

So, pick a time when everyone is in a calm, relaxed mood, and discuss an action plan of how to deal with turbulent feelings as a family.

I explained to my kids that I was also prone to mood swings at that time, and that we all might need a little extra space to process our emotions until everyone’s hormones settled back down.

One method that worked for us was a self-enforcing time-out system. For example, if you feel the red mist of menopausal rage starting to descend, take yourself upstairs alone for a full 5 minutes of deep, mindful breathing. You can ask your teens to do the same the next time they feel a bout of teenage tension rising to the surface.

You may want to invent a special code word or phrase that you can use that lets everyone else know what’s going on. For example, “finding my zen! ” or “T for timeout!”

This will help you all to bypass family arguments and avoid saying things you might regret.

6. Explain How They Can Help You

Having the support of your family is important during menopause. So, when symptoms arise, let your children know what they can do to help you.

It might be simple, practical things, like asking your older, more capable kids to turn down the thermostat or bring you a cold compress when a hot flash strikes. Or, if you’re suffering from insomnia, they could begin fixing their own breakfasts so that you can catch up on well-needed sleep in the morning.

If mood swings are becoming a common occurrence, explain that you need them to be a little extra patient with you for a while. You might need to take a timeout to regain your composure, so ask them to give you space for that when you need it. Then, when you’re feeling better, don’t forget to thank them and reassure them that you love them.

FAQs

Are there any books or educational materials that can help my kids better understand menopause?

There are several great educational resources out there, but most are aimed at adults or older teenagers. 
Dr. Louise Newson’s book Preparing for Perimenopause and Menopause, is a 
popular choice. It’s an easy-to-follow, practical, and in-depth guide to the physical and emotional changes of menopause that both you and your teens can learn from. 
There are also endless online resources that can help your kids understand what menopause is all about. Some good places to start are Planned Parenthood’s detailed section on menopause and The Mayo Clinic[1].

At what age should I start discussing menopause with my children?

This all depends on you, your symptoms, and your children’s emotional and educational needs.
If you have very young children and you’re relatively symptom-free, there’s no real need to broach the subject at all.
But if your symptoms are noticeable, it’s important to address menopause in an age-appropriate way as soon as your children are old enough to understand. Even young kids can pick up on emotional and physical changes, so it’s important to reassure them that you are okay.

What should I do if my kids are uncomfortable discussing menopause? 

First of all, it’s perfectly normal for a lot of kids, especially adolescents and teenagers, to feel uncomfortable, squeamish, and downright horrified at the thought of discussing a personal topic like menopause with their mother.
So, if your child is responding this way when you try to bring up the subject, don’t push the issue. At the very least, you have explained to them what your out-of-the-ordinary behavior is about, so they won’t worry next time you have a mood swing or hot flash.

Conclusion

Menopause is a tough time for many women, and the symptoms can interfere with your family life at home. Hot flashes, insomnia, mood swings, and fatigue can all become noticeable to your kids. So, it’s important to communicate what’s happening in your body in an age-appropriate way.

By explaining what menopause is and how it’s affecting you, you can alleviate any worries your children might have and reassure them that everything is okay.

Author

  • Dr. Karen Pike

    Dr. Pike is a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. She received her undergraduate degree at Dartmouth College, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa and played collegiate soccer. She attended Georgetown University for medical school and performed her residency in emergency medicine at Stanford University. She was part of the first-ever, women-majority emergency medicine program in United States. Dr. Pike is also the primary medical consultant for “Grey’s Anatomy,” a role she has held since the pilot episode when she partnered with Shonda Rhimes as the show’s original medical consultant. At her hospital, she was the second woman Chief of Staff. Today serves as the Director of the Emergency Department. Whether in leadership or direct patient care, her dedication to excellence in communication, quality, and collaboration is unwavering.