3 boys walking down a street

How to start explaining periods to your son

Inside: A guide for parents on how to start explaining periods to your son so that boys see menstruation as a shame-free part of life.

A common question that I'm asked by parents is about how to start explaining periods to your son. They may be unsure about whether their son needs to know about periods, what to tell him and how much he actually needs to know. Or they want son to be understanding of what his sisters (and mother) are going through. Or they want to make sure that their son grows up without adding to the shame that is often associated with periods.

This is an important discussion to have with boys, as they will be having contact with females for their whole life - school friends, intimate partners, sisters, work colleagues and maybe even their own daughter. And research tells us that boys want to know more about periods. So this is your opportunity as a parent, to start sharing some positive messages about periods with your son, and to counteract the negative messages he may already be receiving from the media, his friends and society.

You'll find more information about puberty in my Puberty 101 page.

When to start explaining periods to your son

There is no ‘right’ time to start explaining periods to your son.  It is completely up to you but the earlier you start talking about puberty, the easier it can be.

You can start talking to kids about puberty from a very young age. By starting when they are younger, you are gently introducing the concept to them that one day their body will start to change from being a child’s body to an adult body. Kids as young as three or four will have no trouble grasping this concept. They won’t really understand why, or even want to know, but they will accept it as just another thing that will one day happen to them. They will see puberty (and periods) as being normal.

There are many possible opportunities for talking about periods with boys. Your 3 year old might walk into the bathroom when you’re changing your tampon or pad. He might ask why you’re bleeding down there. Your 5 year old might be upset because his big sister sometimes shuts the toilet door and won’t let him in (because she is changing her pad). Your 7 year old might find period supplies in the bathroom drawer and ask what they are.

These are all situations where you can provide your son with basic information that will satisfy his curiosity. You don’t need to worry about giving him too much information. Anything that he doesn’t understand, will be forgotten because it just won’t make sense to him.

mother and son talking

Talking in an everyday way removes any shame or embarrassment.

What do boys need to know about periods

Boys need to know that girls go through puberty as well. Some of the changes for girls are the same, and some of them are different.

So it might be helpful for your son to know that:

  • a period is when blood comes out of a females vagina
    • it is part of the reproductive cycle for  females
    • each month a female’s body gets ready to have a baby
      • the uterus grows a thin layer of blood and special tissue that make a soft bed for a baby to grow on
      • if there is no pregnancy, the body throws the bed away, as it isn’t needed
      • it comes out as blood through the vagina and is called a menstrual period
    • this usually happens once a month until they go through menopause in their 50s
    • sometimes periods can be uncomfortable for a girl
  • pads and tampons are used to absorb the blood (there are other menstruation products too)
  • a period is a normal part of being female
  • a girl is fertile (capable of becoming pregnant) once she starts to have her periods
  • there are many other words for periods – menstruation
    • there is also lots of slang and some of it can be insulting
  • periods only happen to people with a uterus
    • which means that a transgender male (ie a female who is transitioning to a male) may experience periods as they still have a uterus
  • girls may feel embarrassed talking about their periods
    • important to not tease them about it
  • sometimes periods can stain clothing and this can be very embarrassing for girls
    • they should never shame a girl when this happens
    • they should discretely let the girl (or one of her friends) that this has happened

How to start explaining periods to your son

The best approach when explaining periods to your son, is to talk about periods in the exact same way that you talk about anything else. So use the same voice that you normally use.  This way you are giving your child the message that periods are a natural part of being a woman. They aren’t anything to be ashamed of and are just a part of every day (or monthly, LOL) life.

There are many things that you can start doing. Try to be more open in regards to the fact that periods happen. Take your son shopping with you, walk down the ‘period product’ aisle together and start up a conversation.  Or get him to help you unpack the shopping, and ask him to put the period products away for you.

Talk openly about your own periods (if you have them) or the fact that females have them (eg an aunt, cousin, etc). If you’re comfortable, you can also make sure you talk about periods in front of the other males in your household, too. Kids learn more by what we do than what we say. So try to role model a positive approach.

If talking about periods makes you feel uncomfortable, then explain this to your son. Talk about the reasons why you might feel uncomfortable, and explain to them the negative messages that you received during your own childhood.

If you’re unsure about how to start explaining periods to your son, then you might find my parent book, Boy Puberty, helpful as it has lots of helpful suggestions on how to start talking with your boy about puberty.

Try including fathers in the conversation as well.

Resources

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.

About the Author Cath Hakanson

I'm Cath, a sex educator living in Australia with my husband and 2 kids. I help parents to talk about sex (with less cringe and more confidence) and empower their child to make smart sexual decisions. To find a better way to talk about sex, you can join my community of parents and visit my shop for helpful resources.

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