Inside: Here's 6 tips for "the period" talk that will help parents to have shame-free conversations and to prepare their daughter 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 daughter everything she needs to get through this major transition in her life.
If you’re worried about communicating the basics and getting her through her first cycle, keep these 6 tips in mind when talking to your daughter about her period.
Puberty can happen over the course of 2-5 years, so it’s wise to start talking to your daughter about puberty well before she gets her first period. That way, she 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 her understanding over a few months or years so she feels completely confident entering puberty.
Also, be prepared to anticipate and answer any questions your child has. Boys and girls 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.
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 girls her age that haven’t gotten theirs yet, so she’s likely feeling vulnerable and “different” than her peers. As her mom, you can provide valuable insight into her experience by making sure she knows that every young woman 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 daughters 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 daughter that this is not embarrassing for you can help her feel more prepared to take on the world as an unashamed young woman. Doing some research together can help her feel less alone as well, and help her see that there are plenty of people who have the same questions and feelings she has.
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 daughter’s body, aside from an annoying monthly disruption to her routine. Sometimes, it can help to explain why women have periods – ultimately, it is the reason women can carry babies and produce new life.
While it doesn’t always make the symptoms go away, knowing exactly what is happening in her body can reassure her 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.
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 daughter 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 girls to find what works for them.
You can read this blogpost, to learn more about the different types of menstruation products are available.
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 daughter is prone to embarrassment or is reluctant to have “the talk” with you, find a doctor or outside mentor she 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. She may realize that a doctor isn’t looking to embarrass her or call her out, but help her understand why her body is changing from an objective, educational standpoint.
Sometimes, girls 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 daughter understand this experience while maintaining her independence. Try not to take it personally – she may just need a little separation to figure it out as much as she can on her own.
Finally, be patient with your girls 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 conversation. Just remember that as a parent, you are her biggest advocate and she will lean on you to help get her 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 she could ask for during this time of change.
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 blogposts 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, Boy Puberty – How to talk about puberty and sex with your tween boy or Girl Puberty - How to talk about puberty and sex with your tween girl, 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.
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 it down into simple steps that take the stress out of explaining!
If you want a printed book to hold in your hands, then the 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.
If you want the answers to questions about a lot more than just sex, then Sex Ed Quickies is your best option. It has answers to 300+ questions that kids commonly ask parents, including how babies are made, sexual intercourse, body parts, puberty, relationships, pregnancy, birth, masturbation, sexual diversity, gender, pornography, STIs, contraception and much more.
Jenny Hart is a health and wellness writer with a passion for travel, cycling and books. When she isn’t writing or travelling, she’s traversing NYC with her two dogs Poochie and Ramone.