I’m not sure who dreads the “period talk” more – kids or parents. When it’s time to sit down and talk about puberty and menstruation, many parents feel nervous and clumsy at first. It’s not uncommon for everyone involved to feel a little awkward, so know you’re not alone.
You can avoid unnecessary stress with a bit of preparation, research and the following 5 tips:
- Start early
Puberty takes place over the course of a few years, so it’s a good idea to start introducing these topics to your kids well before they enter their puberty years. Boys and girls should learn about menstruation, so be prepared to talk to both your daughters and sons about what this means in a girl’s life.
If you start talking to your daughter about her puberty around age 8 or 9, you’ll be able to build on her understanding over the years and she’ll be prepared for what’s going to happen. This will keep her from feeling scared or embarrassed when she gets her first cycle.
As she learns more, she’ll have a lot of questions. While no parent can anticipate every single answer they’ll need when talking to their child, be prepared to talk about the basics – her changing body, reproductive system and even the best organic tampons or sanitary pads for beginners. Doing some preliminary research can refresh your own memory and prepare for you most of the questions headed your way.
- Explain what’s happening
One of the first questions your daughter may ask is why women have periods at all. This big-picture question can be daunting, but can also be used to your advantage. Sometimes, explaining the grand plan of menstruation can help relieve some of the initial frustrating young girls have about having to adjust to their new monthly routine.
Just about every woman can identify with that frustration and inconvenience from time to time. As a beginner, your daughter will be learning how to use feminine care products, how to participate in normal activities, and how to deal with the radical changes in her teen brain development. If you can explain the purpose behind her period, she may be able to cope a bit easier.
- Share your experience
There is no greater resource than someone else’s experience. As a mom, you can probably relate to your daughter the most about getting your first period. She might have friends that haven’t gotten theirs yet, leaving her feeling vulnerable and different. She’ll be able to lean on your reassurance as she realizes every young woman will eventually go through this, including you.
If you’re a dad, you can still offer your input as well! Just because you don’t have firsthand experience doesn’t mean you should stay in the background. Engaging in this conversation can help break the stigma surrounding men and menstruation. Your involvement will assure your daughter that her circumstances are completely natural and not off-putting. If you’re struggling to find a way to help, offer to do some research with your daughter so she knows she’s not the only one with questions.
- Be resourceful
Today, we have access to smartphones, laptops and unlimited data. Take advantage of the tools and resources available at your fingertips! You can find videos, blogs, medical research and even doctors online to fill in the gaps. Social media and the internet can often serve as inspiration for teens to learn and engage with potentially awkward conversations.
These resources can help both you and your daughter stay up-to-date on the latest research and feminine care products. Not only can you learn about what to expect and how to talk about it; you can also determine if your daughter is showing signs of complications, such as PMS.
- Be patient
Finally, as you walk through this transition together, be patient with your kids, your partner and yourself. Your daughter is learning how to approach a major change in her life, which is difficult for people at any age, and she likely won’t know how to prepare for the emotional, physical and hormonal changes that come along with puberty. It can be overwhelming, so be patient as she learns.
Also, don’t forget to work together with your partner or support system to get through this piece of parenthood. It takes teamwork, and there is no “right way” to do it for everyone. It’s normal for everyone to be a bit clumsy during the first few conversations. Just remember that at the end of the day, you all have the same goal: to empower your daughter to walk gracefully and strongly into the next phase in her life.