By Rhonda Garad
Some mothers are better at talking with their adult children than others. My mother wasn’t good at this. In fact, there was only one time when she even came close. I remember I was about thirty at the time and she held my hand, looked seriously at me, inhaled deeply and said; “Don’t ever forget to empty the crumbs out of the bottom of your toaster.” I was so moved by her solemnness that every time I look at the crumbs oozing out of the bottom of my toaster, I think fondly of her!
Hopefully, we are all a little more advanced in the communication skills than my mother and feel it is important to have meaningful conversations with our sons and daughters. This mother’s day might be a good opportunity to have conversations with your kids that cover some of the following;
1) Our reproductive history
One of the more important conversations to have, particularly with your daughters, is around reproductive health. Your reproductive history is a good guide for your daughters to have on what they may experience. These topics can be tricky to discuss particularly with young adolescents, so one approach is to give an accurate account of your own experiences as possible. The following are some of the important areas to cover;
- Age menstruation started: I started my period aged 11 and cried into the floppy ears of my cock-a-spaniel dog as I had a foreboding sense that nothing would ever be the same again. I was right nothing would, but things got better not worse. Growing into a woman is time to be proud of even if at times it feels a tad awkward.
The average age most girls start to menstruate is around 12 years with variations of a couple of years either side of that. There is no real way of knowing when each girl will get her period but the age her mother started is a good indicator.
It is also a good idea to talk with your daughters about what your periods were like. Did you have regular periods, heavy bleeding, symptoms with your periods such as tiredness, mood changes etc.
- Age at menopause: Again, the age at which your mother went through menopause is one guide to when you may reach menopause. The average age that most women go through menopause is around 51 years but this too can be highly variable. Some women experience menopause in their early 40’s (pre-mature menopause) or not until their late 50’s (delayed menopause).
- Gynaecological history: Common conditions like endometriosis, pre-menstrual syndrome and polycystic ovary syndrome have a strong family link. The daughter of a woman with any of these conditions has a higher chance of also developing them. It is ideal to have the conversations with your daughter about your gynaecological history. It is also good to reassure her that if she were to develop the condition that she is likely to get an early diagnosis due to the heads up she has had about it. Early diagnosis, good management and good support are more likely to lead to better health outcomes.
2) Reframing our body language
So much of the messages from the media aimed at our sons and daughters are telling them that the value of their bodies is purely in how they appear to others. Messages such as; only thin and beautiful girls are desirable. Or for boys the message is more around having a six pack and looking buff.
These can be destructive messages contributing to poor body image. As mothers we can counter the media influence with messages by reframing the value of our bodies around health and personal happiness.
We can make comments like: ‘My body does an amazing job every day in allowing me to do the things I need to do.’ Or ‘I choose foods to keep me healthy and feeling strong’.
And too our sons and daughters we can say things like; ‘People are attracted to you as a whole person, not just on how you look.’ And ‘Being happy is about being happy in your own skin.’ Both boys and girls are vulnerable to the pervasive influence of the media so trying to engage your sons in these conversations is also important.
There is a great saying; “Sex isn’t hard but intimacy can be terrifying”. Having conversations with your sons and daughters around intimacy can be very important to help them understand the difference between sex and intimacy. Dr Mandy Deeks says that explaining that the word Intimacy means “in to me see” can be a good way to start the conversation.
Intimacy can be modeled by having an intimate conversation between you and your son or daughter. Having an open, honest and uncritical conversation with them can demonstrate what intimacy is and how they may begin to have intimate conversations with their partners.
Happy mother’s day
From all of us at Jean Hailes, I wish you all mothers, sons and daughters a wonderful day on Sunday. As for me I will be fondly cleaning my toaster and toasting my now departed mum.