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.
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.
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:
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.
There are some fantastic resources that will help to make explaining periods to your son, a lot easier.
This list of puberty books for boys will explain the changes that are happening to him but also include the changes that happen to girls.
You may also find some relevant websites listed in my sex education resources list that you can visit with your son, that talk about puberty and growing up.
You can watch some of the videos from Tween Talk, my Youtube channel for tweens that talks about puberty and growing up. Feedback from parents is that they are using them as conversation starters. They will watch a video together with their child, and then chat about the topic.
And if you are looking for some ideas on how to start talking to your son, then my book Boy Puberty: How to talk about puberty and sex with your tween boy, includes everything you will need to discuss and how to start talking about it.
Enjoy the conversation!
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.