As a child, one of the conversations I dreaded having with my mother was the “period talk,” mostly because the subject grossed me out and also because I didn’t want to have my period and was basically in conscious denial about its impending arrival. Now as a mother of a daughter, the shoe is on the other foot and I know the conversation will have to take place, and sooner rather than later. Though, of course, I would love to avoid the conversation because it signals the fact that my daughter is growing and maturing, at the same time I want her to have the talk with me in a safe space and in a less awkward way than a health class at school or with girlfriends who are equally “newbies” in the arena of young womanhood.
I have given a lot of thought about how I will approach the conversation with my daughter when the time comes and I have also done a great deal of research to ensure my kids have reliable factual information. Here are some proven tips for having a “successful” period talk with your daughters.
1. Gauge what your child knows and start with the basics. Ask if your child knows about periods, then share appropriately leveled information from there. Explain that a woman’s body changes biologically so that, if she wants to, she can have a baby when she grows up. What you talk about from there in terms of those changes really depends on your child’s age and level of development.
2.) Answer questions simply and directly. Most children will ask when girls get their first period. Research has shown that most girls get their periods between 10-15 years old. The average age is 12, but every girl’s body is different and has its own timeline. She will want to know will it hurt, how long will it last, what she should do, when it will happen, whether other people will know, and other similar questions. Be honest with your answers and use the proper names for things, as it removes taboos and eliminates confusion for your child.
3.) Talk early and often. The sooner you talk to your daughters about the changes they can expect when their period comes and about puberty overall, the better. The conversations you have about puberty and menstruation and the trust you establish with your daughters will lay the foundation for important conversations related to sexuality, dating, and relationships a little further down the road.
4.) Remind your daughters that everyone is different. Reassure her that she doesn’t have to worry when her friends start having their periods or if she gets her first, because everyone is different. Let her know that it is common to have irregular periods, so if that happens for her it’s a normal part of her body’s adjustment to having a period.
5.) Teach her to track her periods and about the various products available. Teaching your daughter to track her periods will help her learn to predict the changes that she will experience and to be better prepared for each month, which can boost her confidence and comfort dealing with her period. Keeping track of periods can also help you and medical providers identify any potential disorders or other period-related health problems. Making sure your daughter fully understand the products available and how to use them properly will go a long way to help her find what works best and is most comfortable for her.
6.) Be positive and be available. Puberty is already a hard and scary time in the life of adolescents. Reassure your child that you are always there, affirming their feelings that it is normal to feel nervous or apprehensive about menstruating.
Having the period talk is essential for your daughter who will experience this developmental milestone as they mature, and it is equally important to talk with your sons in order to normalize it for them and remove any taboos or stereotypes as well. In order to change attitudes about menstruation and puberty we have to talk about it. The “period talk” should be just another part of the ongoing conversations we as parents will be having with our children for the rest of their lives.