Inside: Here’s 6 tips for “the period” talk that will help parents to have shame-free conversations and to prepare their child for menstruation.
There’s often a stigma surrounding conversation about menstruation, based on past or present cultural norms. However, as parents, we can’t shy away from having “the period” talk with our kids if we expect them to make smart, informed decisions about their bodies and sexuality.
When it’s finally time to sit down with your child and have “the period” talk, it can be awkward at first. However, it can also be empowering to give your child everything they need to get through this major transition in their life.
If you’re worried about communicating the basics and getting them through their first cycle, keep these 6 tips in mind when talking to your daughter (or female child) about their period.
1. Be prepared
Puberty can happen over the course of 2-5 years, so it’s wise to start talking to your child about puberty well before they get their first period. That way, they won’t be blindsided by it and embarrassed to tell you what’s happening.
There’s no defined “right time” to start the conversation, but you know your child best. Once you learn how to gauge their maturity and the way they learn, you’ll find the right time, trust me. If you start the conversation early enough, you can then build on their understanding over a few months or years so they feel completely confident entering puberty.
Also, be prepared to anticipate and answer any questions your child has. Boys too (or children with male bodies) can benefit from this knowledge, and they will likely have a lot of questions about puberty and their changing bodies, feminine care products, hormones and reproduction. The more you refresh your own knowledge of menstruation, the more easily you’ll be able to navigate their questions.
2. Be inclusive
Mothers can certainly relate to the feelings that come along with your first cycle. Having your first period can feel scary, embarrassing and isolating. Chances are, there are some kids their age that haven’t gotten theirs yet, so they’re likely feeling vulnerable and “different” than their peers. As their mom, you can provide valuable insight into their experience by making sure they know that everyone with a female body goes through it, including you.
If you’re a dad, don’t back away from this conversation.
It is really important that dads are talking to kids about periods too, with some great research backing up the need for these conversations to happen.
You are in a unique position to break the stigma that surrounds men and menstruation. Showing your child that this is not embarrassing for you can help them feel more prepared to take on the world as an unashamed young person. Doing some research together can help them feel less alone as well, and help them see that there are plenty of people who have the same questions and feelings they have.
3. Explain that menstruation is more than just your period
It’s no secret that your first period feels completely inconvenient and frustrating. Even grown women get frustrated from time to time! However, there’s obviously much more going on with your child’s body, aside from an annoying monthly disruption to their routine. Sometimes, it can help to explain why females have periods – ultimately, it is the reason females can carry babies and produce new life.
While it doesn’t always make the symptoms go away, knowing exactly what is happening in their body can reassure them that it is working properly, which can be comforting in the midst of a mess of hormones. Explaining the big picture of menstruation can make dealing with a monthly period a bit less frustrating at first.
4. Use tools and resources to help
You’re not alone when having to explain periods to a child.
In this digital age, we have access to unlimited data, smartphones, laptops and Siri. There are infinite resources available to help you have “the period” talk with your child. You can find informative videos, books, articles, research and even medical professionals who can help fill in the gaps. These resources can also help you determine if your child is experiencing symptoms of PMS or other complications, which may save a trip to the doctor.
Have the right products on hand as well. There are a variety of beginner pads and teen tampons available on the market that make it easy for kids to find what works for them.
You can read this blogpost, to learn more about the different types of menstruation products are available.
5. Find a doctor they can talk to
There are some answers that parents just don’t have, and there are some conversations that are best had with a medical professional. If your child is prone to embarrassment or is reluctant to have “the talk” with you, find a doctor or outside mentor they can count on.
Doctors can offer professional advice and speak clinically about the body, which can often make teens feel more comfortable during conversations about their own biology. They may realize that a doctor isn’t looking to embarrass them or call them out, but help them understand why their body is changing from an objective, educational standpoint.
Sometimes, tweens just don’t want to get too personal with the people they live with when they’re going through so many changes. A more distant female mentor can also help your child understand this experience while maintaining their independence. Try not to take it personally – they may just need a little separation to figure it out as much as they can on their own.
6. Be patient
Finally, be patient with your child as they go through this time of transition. They will likely not know how to identify or handle the hormonal, physical and emotional changes they’ll be enduring during puberty.
Be patient with yourself and your partner as well. It’s likely been quite a while since you experienced your first period, or since you’ve had to talk to anyone about puberty, so it’s not uncommon to be a little clumsy at first during the conversation. Just remember that as a parent, you are their biggest advocate and they will lean on you to help get them through this one.
Helping our kids through the various changes they’ll encounter throughout their lives is one of the greatest joys and challenges we face as parents. As a mom or dad, you are the best cheerleader, parent and friend they could ask for during this time of change.
Resources to help with talking about puberty
My mission is to create resources that will help you to naturally talk to your kids about sex, all while respecting your personal values.
Which means that inside this website, you’ll find lots of resources to help you with talking to your child about puberty.
My Puberty 101 page includes all of the information on puberty. You’ll find lots of different blog posts to help with talking to your child about growing up.
You’ll find videos about puberty in my Sex Education Videos resource page that you can watch with your child or to learn more about puberty yourself.
You’ll also find an extensive range of children’s books on puberty, for kids of all ages.
If you get stuck and feel that you need some extra support with talking to your child about puberty, then my book, The Parents’ Guide to Puberty, may be helpful. It’s a straightforward common sense guide that will help you to start having honest conversations that will guide your child through puberty, and strengthen your relationship without feeling embarrassed, awkward or nervous.
Or maybe you’re looking for a video course to sit down and watch together with your child. My friend Rowena from Amazing Me has created a fantastic 2 part interactive course for parents/carers to attend together with their 9 to 12 year old. It’s fun, educational and age-appropriate! You can learn more about her puberty course here.
If you have a child who is expecting their first period, then you may want to consider period pants. Period pants are fantastic for kids who are worried that they won’t know that their period has started until it stains through their clothing for the world to see. My favourite brand for tweens and teens is ModiBodi, as they are good quality and quite absorbent.
If you need some help with explaining sexual intercourse to your child, then How to Talk to Kids About Sex will help you explain sex to your child in a way they will understand. It breaks sex down into simple steps that take the stress out of explaining!
If you’re unsure about how to answer your child’s questions about sex, then I have the perfect book for you! The Sex Education Answer Book will give you age-specific answers to the most common questions kid’s ask parents about sex. Which means you don’t need to worry about finding a child-friendly explanation that your child understands.
And if you get stuck, feel free to get in touch! You can contact me here.