Adolescence and menopause can be a clash of hormones that can de-rail any family relationships!
Motherhood has been dubbed by many as ‘the best job in the world’, and it really is, but – like any job – there are the not-so-great bits!
One stage that can drive parents to the brink is the teen years and unfortunately, this often coincides with our perimenopause or menopause years, making for a potentially fractious household.
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You may begin asking yourself;
- Why are my child and I arguing all the time?
- I have been doing this parenting for so long, why am I failing?
- Why has my daughter lost her confidence? I feel so helpless. How do I help her?
- I feel like the sunshine has left our family. Why am I so upset all the time?
Meet Cai Graham
Cai Graham knows these feelings all too well but, as a parenting expert and coach, she assures us this is normal. A mother of two, Cai has first-hand experience in how difficult raising teens can be, especially with the added pressure of work, her own changing body and an imposter syndrome that has haunted her from the moment she left university.
Cai had worked in IT before having her children and then decided to become a stay at home mum. Once her children started full time school, it was time to reinvent herself and she became a wedding photographer.
“We know when we get to that sort of age, there is quite a lot going on physically and there’s quite a lot going on mentally, too. I had to reach the crossroads of, ‘who the heck am I?’ and ‘what am I doing, and am I doing it well?’,” she said.
Once her children left home, Cai changed gears again and became a certified life coach. As she spoke more and more with other mothers to help them move through the difficulties in their lives, she began noticing a pattern; not only did they ask for help for themselves, but for their teenage children as well.
“At the time I was doing work with ChildLine, so I was at the coalface with kids anywhere from the age of 5 to 19 phoning up with some really serious problems, and sometimes more trivial ones, but always important in their eyes. Speaking to children and young people and hearing about what their issues were, began translating into my work with women,” Cai said.
“I suddenly realised I needed to help parents, and specifically parents of teenagers. We get lots of help when our babies are born, but suddenly, when our kids grow up, the problems get really meaty…and I want to lift the lid on this.”
She is now on a mission to smooth the waters for parents across the world as we do our very best to raise the next generation of amazing humans. Her first step was to publish her book, The Teen Toolbox, to guide parents through the imposter syndrome that is raising teenagers.
Guilt is a massive theme that comes through time and time again in her work with families – the pressure of getting it right is immense, but Cai wants us all to know that it is ok.
The clash of adolescence and menopause
“As parents of teenagers, and especially when adolescence and menopause clash, we need to give ourselves a break and we need to understand that actually, we’re doing pretty well. We’re doing the very best that we can, and if we just need a little bit of guidance, that’s alright.”
Throughout her work, Cai sees two predominant issues facing modern families and – interestingly – technology is not one of them. It is the age-old issues of poor self esteem and communication that top the charts in terms of the biggest challenges.
Delve a little deeper into these issues, and she found that both self-esteem and communication problems similarly plagued the parents who were, ironically, trying their best to coach their kids.
“But it’s only when we actually make ourselves vulnerable that we start getting the strength,” Cai reminds us.
Communication is key
Children, regardless of age, learn from observation. One of Cai’s greatest pieces of advice is to tell kids what is going on in your head. They can’t see why you have been grumpy, but if you tell them, quite often they will understand.
Opening communication in this way helps kids learn how to deal with their own emotions and reinforces the cohesion many families begin to feel slipping as everyone struggles to deal with ‘their own stuff’.
Every individual needs to feel loved, understood and respected, and when we give that to our kids, we can then expect the same in return.
“Yes, we need to be the leader of our family, but I think we need to treat our family as a unit and ‘we’re all in it together’. Once the kids realise that, actually, everyone has got each other’s back, that’s when the magic starts happening,” Cai said.
Cai’s formula for happy families
E + R = O
(Event + Response = Outcome)
When something happens, be that your son slamming the car door at school or your daughter rolling her eyes and storming out of the room when asked to fold the laundry, it is your response that will ultimately predict the outcome.
The only thing you can change in any given situation, is your response. As a parent, we have so many responsibilities, but how we respond to our children is one of the biggest responsibilities of all.
Taking a step back and understanding the other person’s point of view is vital to offering a constructive response; perhaps your son had a fight with a friend and that is why he was angry when he got in the car. He wasn’t trying to annoy you by slamming the door. Perhaps your daughter had a headache and was feeling unwell, which is why she couldn’t cope with your request and instead stormed out.
As frustrating as these frequent situations can be, the power is within you to stop the headbutting in its tracks and instead nurture a calmer, more openly communicative household.
How do you control your response?
Self-care has become a bit of a buzzword in health and coaching circles, but for good reason. We know from experience that when we are struggling, it is so much harder to look after those around us. When we can’t look after our family? Then comes the guilt we began with.
Long hot baths and spending time at the salon are great ways to indulge in a bit of self-care, but there is more to it than that. Real self-care comes from within.
“What is vital is self-care in your own head. It’s being kind to yourself. It’s not beating yourself up when things don’t go according to plan or how the textbook says it should be,” Cai said.
Feeling tired and worn out is generally accepted as ‘the norm’ for this stage of life; when adolescence and menopause mixes; kids going through hormonal changes, you going through hormonal changes, plus a whole host of other factors such teaching the kids to drive, planning their next step and managing your own job and relationships in between.
But, it doesn’t have to be normal to feel this way, and Cai urges all women to take their foot off the pedal and really listen to their bodies and find the help they need.
“You have to embrace the messiness of you, and just understand that self-care comes in all shapes and sizes. For some people it could be sitting outside for a cuppa or reading a book. But for other people, it could be removing comparison-itis, it could be removing perfectionism …whatever is stretching you in slightly the wrong way. Put yourself back on the agenda.”
Check out Cai's website for more on her book, programs and helpful resources.
Or Contact Us if you'd like help with your menopause symptoms.