Your daughters first period will be a monumental occasion in her life. As a parent, you may be questioning when to begin talking to your daughter about periods, what to talk about and how to support her.
Finding ways to talk to your daughter about her period will make all the difference to her experience. Menstruation shouldn’t be seen as scary or bad, but unfortunately there are still many misconceptions and stigmas around. If the first your daughter hears about menstruation is gossip and jokes on the playground, she may develop a sense of fear or shame about what’s ahead. Whether you’re a mum, dad or carer, creating an open dialogue about menstruation can help your daughter to see her period not as a taboo, but as a natural, normal part of life.
When should I talk to my daughter about periods?
A good time to start talking to your daughter about periods in a general way is around the age of 7. The average age for starting periods is 12, but they can start as early as 8 and sometimes even earlier.
Conversations and rumours around school will probably start well before your daughter’s first period, and it’s these rumours that can form a negative perception of menstruation. Talking openly with her will help her to feel prepared, and she might even educate her school friends.
How do I bring periods up?
It can be tough to find an appropriate time to bring up the subject of menstruation to your daughter. Look for moments like adverts for sanitary products, TV show storylines about periods, celebrities discussing issues around menstruation, and social media campaigns.
Ask your daughter how much she already knows about periods and if she has any questions. If possible, try talking to her about your own experience so she can relate to the subject more personally. Try to keep the story positive, or at least have a positive outcome. Horror stories will only cause panic that something similar will happen to her, further increasing the shame around periods. If you can’t draw on personal experience, try talking about a friend or female celebrity.
When she’s ready to talk, you need to be prepared to answer any questions she might have as fully, honestly and openly as you can. If you’re not sure, try looking it up together. Always use clear language like ‘period’, ‘vagina’ and ‘sanitary towels’ rather than euphemisms like ‘time of the month’, ‘down there’ and ‘protection’ to avoid confusion.
If you are a single father and worried talking to your daughter about periods will make her uncomfortable, try enlisting the help of an aunt or female cousin.
Stay open and positive
Being open with your daughter about menstruation can help her to develop more confidence to ask you any questions she might have. Talking about periods, getting used to sanitary towels and tampons, and knowing the various stages and symptoms of a cycle means the whole subject will feel less foreign and daunting.
Most importantly, avoid using negative language when you talk about periods, so she doesn’t view them with dread or disgust. Euphemisms like ‘the curse’ do nothing to help the negative stigma around periods. Keep the language positive, periods are a natural part of life that all women share.
Just because men don’t experience periods doesn’t make them an exclusive topic. Discuss menstruation with your sons. The women they meet, either at school or in relationships, will appreciate them having a mature view of menstruation.
Menstruation myths and misconceptions
While discussing periods, it’s important to dispel any of the myths and misconceptions that surround them. These can make your daughter feel menstruation is shameful. She may have heard period blood is unclean, or milk will curdle when she walks into the room. Friends at school may have told her that you can lose a tampon inside you forever, that tampons can kill you, or that you can’t wash your hair or swim while on your period. Mostly these come from misinformation or half-truths. Your daughter may already suspect these are nonsense but not having all the facts may make her anxious.
What if it all goes wrong?
No matter how prepared you are going into a conversation, it might not go the way you hoped. She may be too shy or embarrassed to talk to you in person, but she will most likely still have questions and feelings to discuss. It might be worth letting her know you’re always available to talk to her if she wants to know more. Sometimes it may be easier to talk over text or with letters rather than face to face.
One thing to remember – your daughter might already know that periods and pregnancy are linked somehow. If, while discussing periods, your daughter brings up pregnancy don’t freak out! Just because she asked doesn’t mean she’s already having sex. Rather, it means she’s curious and trusts you as the person who will give her an honest answer.
What about her other periods?
It will take your daughter a while to figure out what her unique period is going to be like. Every girl experiences a different cycle. Some girls have a very heavy period but only for a few days, some girls have a light period for longer. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to periods. Remind her that just because she is going through something different to her friends, doesn’t mean she is not normal. The best thing you can do it keep the conversation going.