For some people talking about periods or menstrual products with their kids can be confusing or awkward. What do you say and when do you start? If you’ve started out being open and honest it does make things easier, but at some point you’re going to have to have a discussion on periods and what products to use. Hopefully this will help you.
My personal opinion is that it is important to always treat matters of the human body and its processes in a very matter of fact and honest way. I feel that hiding behind pet names for things (“front bottom” instead of vulva for example) encourages feelings of embarrassment and shame. I also feel it is important to include boys in the discussions too – because they need to understand about the process and they need to know it is normal and natural too, because they will most likely grow up to experience living with a woman who has periods, and if they find it dirty/gross and don’t know much about it, then that that will impact negatively on their lives and the lives of the women too.
If you have young children, you’re likely to rarely go to the toilet alone! so it’s likely at some point your children will see your menstrual products, they may even see some blood in the toilet or on the toilet paper. This is a good opportunity to start the discussion on the fact women have periods. Depending on the age of the child you can keep it very simple for young children. They will learn to react to it based on how you react to it. So if you are embarrassed and avoid questions, they will learn that this process is something embarrassing and awkward.
For young children, you can start by explaining that just like wee and poo comes out of your body, grown up ladies also have blood that comes out once a month. That you need to use pads (or another product) to collect, much like how babies wear nappies/diapers. If they ask why the blood is there or how it gets in there, you can decide what age appropriate explanation to give. Perhaps starting with something along the lines of that ladies can grow babies in their tummies, but when the mother doesn’t want to have a baby yet, the blood comes out instead.
As the children get older, you can give more information. You can explain how babies are formed and the function of the blood forming in the womb. If you’re uncomfortable at first explaining how the egg gets fertilised, you can try skimming over that part until you need to. A simple explanation might be along the lines of that women have ting eggs in their ovaries that travel down into the uterus, where they either pass out of the body along with the blood in a period, or the blood forms a sort of soft bed for the egg to rest in while it grows up to become a baby.
If they ask questions, try to answer them as open and honestly as you can.
As your daughter gets to the age of about 9, you should have a talk about periods if you haven’t done it before then. To make sure she is aware of what will happen, before it happens. It is possible for a period to start from about age 9-15. Although it is likely to be around age 12.
Explain what periods are, what they are for (a good time for the “birds and bees” talk if you’ve not done it already!), and how to manage them. Talk about what is normal and what is not.
If you don’t get the chance to talk to her before her period starts, she’ll one day find her period has started and not know what it is or what to do. That can be very frightening for girls to go through. By talking to her about it early, you are also setting up a relationship where she can come to ask you for advice or questions.
It is very important that she knows what will happen, so she knows what to look for and knows what to expect (eg if you’re feeling a bit crampy and moist down there, it may be your period starting!). It is also important that she knows where to find where you keep pads at home, and most importantly, has a couple in her school bag. So that she does not panic when the time comes, and isn’t left unprepared if her period starts when she is at school.
I’ve written 2 little booklets that might be helpful for some people. One is a booklet that explains periods, menstrual products and other things – aimed at young girls. The other is a booklet for parents that covers some topics about how to talk to your kids about periods and how to prepare yourself and your daughter for menstruation.
You can download them here.
They are designed to be read online or printed into a booklet. To print them, open the file in Adobe reader, select to print as a booklet. Print one lot of “front side only” then place the pages back into your printer and change the pulldown menu to print “back side only”. You may need to tick/untick the “print reverse pages” if your printer prints the pages in reverse order or not. (see screenshot)